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Thatcham Research responds to Highway Code changes designed to bring ‘self-driving revolution’ closer

 

Following today’s Government announcement setting out changes to the Highway Code to help “ensure the first wave of [self-driving] technology will be used safely”, Thatcham Research, which consulted with the Law Commission on its recent report focused on the safe adoption of Automated Driving, has issued a comment.

Matthew Avery, chief research strategy officer, Thatcham Research said:

“This is another notable landmark on our journey towards safe Automated Driving in the UK. Education is a key enabler of safe adoption, and as such, we welcome the announcement’s focus on ensuring that drivers understand their legal obligations behind the wheel of any vehicle described as having ‘self-driving capability.

“Although automation will ultimately make our roads safer, accidents will still occur. Therefore, data must be recorded that shows who was in control at the time of a collision, however minor, and this data must be openly accessible to all stakeholders, not only the carmakers.

“The question of who pays when an Automated vehicle crashes remains unclear. Carmakers and insurers will work together to handle claims where the vehicle is proven to be in self-driving mode and while Mercedes recently announced that it will accept liability when its ‘Drive Pilot’ automated system is engaged, the provision of data will be vital to making sense of collisions and ensuring that legal wrangling does not put a brake on adoption.

“As a clear communication to the consumer, the announcement’s focus on the driver’s legal responsibilities is important, especially when it comes to taking back control from the system. This is an area of risk and it’s important that drivers are aware that they must remain engaged and be ready to resume the driving task at any time.

“We are also pleased to see that the proposed changes will not permit mobile phone use, and instead only allow use of the vehicle’s infotainment system – which means the self-driving system can issue a warning as required and bring the driver back into the loop promptly.”