Simon MacMichael November 17 2017
Cycling UK says that proposed changes to road traffic aw do not provide for criminal offences in the event that someone is killed or injured in an incident involving an autonomous vehicle,
In written evidence submitted in relation to the Automated and Electric Vehicle (AEV) Bill which this week finished its House of Commons committee stage, the charity outlined its main concerns over the draft legislation.
It said that “while the Bill deals with some of the civil liability aspects of the transfer from human to autonomous control, it fails to transfer criminal responsibility for inappropriate use of autonomous technology, for failing to update the vehicle’s software, or for making dangerous modifications to the vehicle’s software.”
The charity has called on the government to provide a “clearer explanation … of the proposed regulations which will be imposed on forthcoming autonomous vehicles, particularly with regard to vulnerable road users.”
It also called for “changes to the Road Traffic Act 1988 to bring misuse or tampering with autonomous vehicle technology within the definition of dangerous driving,” and to allow for prosecution where motorists “switch to the autonomous modes in inappropriate or unsafe locations.”
As currently drafted, the AEV Bill focuses principally on issues relating to civil liability and insurance implications.
But Cycling UK says that while the law currently allows for the prosecution of drivers or owners of motor vehicles involved in a road traffic collision in which someone is killed or injured, the advent of autonomous cars means there will be circumstances where such legislation will not apply.
It said: “If an AV system designed purely for motorway use offered and were allowed to take control of a vehicle on a busy urban street and that vehicle then overtook a cyclist too closely, hitting the cyclist and them, an offence of careless or dangerous driving would be impossible as the legislation is currently written.”
The charity also has serious concerns about people potentially modifying the software used to control the car, or circumventing some settings, “either malicious or in error, that results in dangerous automated behaviour.”