The UK government has launched a three-year review examining how current driving laws affect the country’s environment for autonomous vehicles (AVs).

The review forms part of the industrial strategy launched by the government last year, and will be undertaken jointly by Law Commissions in Westminster and Holyrood.

The commissions will look at what challenges driving laws in England, Wales and Scotland pose to the adoption of AVs, and whether reforms are needed. The project will also delve into legislative challenges that may arise once AVs become widespread, namely:

  • who can be designated as a “driver” by the law;
  • how to attribute civil and criminal responsibility when machine and human share control of the car;
  • a need to establish new criminal offences altogether;
  • protecting other road users; and
  • the role of AVs in public transport and shared mobility.

England and Wales Law Commissioner Nicholas Paines said: “British roads are already among the safest in the world and automated vehicles have the potential to make them even safer. Provided our laws are ready for them.

“We’ll now start consulting widely on how the law should work with this new technology and develop reforms which enable the use of self-driving vehicles in the years to come.”

Scottish Law Commissioner Caroline Drummond said: “Automated vehicles could have a big impact on the way we live and work so it’s important that, UK-wide we have a legal system which can accommodate them.”

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An EU-backed consortium on AVs, which is also looking into the legislative framework for future vehicles, was launched in September, bringing together 12 OEMs as well as the universities of Leeds and Warwick.

The British government has also launched its own consortium, Meridian, in September. Transport for London (TfL) is also collaborating with Oxford-based AV developer Oxbotica.

Ford, one the OEMs making a big push into AVs, has also recently opened a mobility office in London.