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Transport Committee calls on DfT to clarify driverless cars strategy

Date: 06 March 2015   |   Author:

Volvo is one manufacturer already testing high-autonomy with its vehicles

A new report from the Transport Committee has called on the Department for Transport to develop a comprehensive strategy to maximise the benefits of new motoring technology, such as telematics and driverless cars, for businesses and drivers in the UK.

Louise Ellman, MP and chair of the Transport Committee, said in the new Motoring of the Future report, that it's possible the Government may have to mandate the uptake of "at least some" autonomous technology on cars if a long-term vision for a safe transport system free from death and serious injury is to ever happen.

The report calls for clarity on how self-driving cars will affect the liabilities of drivers, manufacturers and insurers.

Ellman said: "Motoring is being transformed by new materials, new fuels and information technology.

"The Government must do more to ensure that people and businesses in the UK benefit from this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity."

Ellman said the Government must do more to prepare for a transition period where manual, semi-autonomous and driverless vehicles will share UK roads.

She said: "Transport Ministers must explain how different types of vehicles will be certified and tested, how drivers will be trained and how driving standards will be updated, monitored and enforced."

Following the report, the Transport Select Committee calls on the DfT to:

  • Clarify how the introduction of self-driving cars will affect the liabilities of drivers, manufacturers and insurers.
  • Positively engage in setting European and international standards that will help UK manufacturers develop products suitable for export.
  • Ask the Information Commissioner to update guidelines on the collection, access and use of vehicle data.
  • Use data on driver behaviour held by the insurance industry and others to inform policy making and improve road safety.

Industry reaction

BVRLA chief executive Gerry Keaney gave evidence to the House of Commons Transport Committee in October 2014 he said many of the organisations suggestions have been taken up by MPs in the Motoring of the Future report.

"We are in the early stages of a motoring revolution, with technology set to transform the way we use road transport," said Keaney.

"The UK has some of the world's brightest automotive talent, but we urgently need some joined up Government thinking if this country is to use this potential."

Keaney said the fleet market is a crucial early adopter of autonomous and connected vehicle technology and "with the right Government support, the potential to reduce emissions, road casualties and congestion is huge".

Commenting on the new report, The AA said it poses many pertinent questions about the future of motoring but the AA maintains that neither the report nor Government yet has the vision to answer those questions.

Edmund King, AA president, said: "The report rightly points to potential problems of a transition period on the roads.

"There is a potential nightmare scenario whereby robotic driverless cars are fighting for space with cars with humans behind the wheel and indeed semi-autonomous cars with no one totally in control.

"We really need a safe vision for the future whereby all vehicles and all road users, can coexist in harmony. This vision will entail Government, manufacturers, insurers and indeed drivers agreeing the way ahead."

IAM director of policy, Neil Greig said:  "The next few years could see a confusing combination of computer and human-controlled vehicles on our roads so the legal framework must be clear on who is responsible in the event of a crash.  The way we train drivers will have to change to reflect this.

"The committee recognised our concerns about data protection. Computerised vehicles will generate information on an epic scale.  In the not so distant future a hacker could do more damage than a drunk driver. Getting system security right must be a top priority."