Law Commission remotes on remote vehicle use

This month, the Law Commission published its advice to the Government on regulating remote driving in the UK. The Law Commission was appointed by the Department for Transport and the Centre for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles, as the issue of driverless vehicles becomes something that needs to be considered in terms of both legality and road safety.

For the purposes of this advice, the Law Commission was looking at remote driving in particular – where the person is not in the vehicle at all, and may be operating it from a central centre. This means that the ‘driver’ does not have an immediate line of sight to the vehicle.

What are the challenges?

The Law Commission was asked to consider a number of potential challenges in this area, including who would be liable in the event of an accident, how to maintain reliable connectivity with the vehicle and how to maintain the ‘situational’ safety that occurs when someone is actively driving a vehicle.

This advice is further to the Law Commission’s original report on autonomous vehicles, which was published in 2022. The Government is currently planning to roll out self-driving cars onto UK roads from 2025.

What is the advice?

The Law Commission advises that there will need to be strong regulation in order to protect road users. It finds that the Government may be able to adapt some existing laws to match the challenges of remote driving, and that some further legislation may be required, in addition to ensuring that remote driving on the UK’s roads and other public places will require special permissions for operating companies. There are also potential issues around the ability of others – such as terrorists, for example – to hijack the technology and take over remote operation.

The Law Commission also raised the potential problem of remote vehicles being driven from overseas, and has advised a ban on this operation because of a lack of enforcement powers if an operating driver is in a different country.

And, in terms of insurance liability, the Commission has advised that: “while remote drivers should be prosecuted for the same crimes as in-vehicle drivers, they should not be liable for any problems beyond their control, such as those due to connectivity issues or faulty remote driving equipment. Remote driving companies should instead be subject to regulatory sanctions and in serious cases, prosecution. Victims of road incidents caused by remote driving should receive no-fault compensation.”

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