UK bill seeks regulation of driverless EVs

9th November 2017
Alice Matthews

There is no shortage of news about self-driving cars coming out of the US. Silicon Valley is considered a global hub of autonomous vehicle development. And each of the Big Three automakers is pouring enormous resources into the industry, with promising results. On the regulatory front, many new bills and and regulations that would create a more welcoming environment for testing autonomous vehicles have been introduced at both the state and local level.

Author: Justin Tejada, The Connected Car

However, the promise of autonomous vehicles and their ability to disrupt the way people get around is not limited to the US. Many global powers are developing their own AV technology and platforms that can compete right alongside those in the States. The UK, in particular, has been very active. And in mid-October, the country took a big step toward establishing a legal framework for self-driving cars with the release of The Automated and Electric Vehicles Bill. The legislation, which is currently making its way through parliament, could influence the way other countries in Europe adopt autonomous vehicle legislation. Here are the three major takeaways from the bill:

1. Insurers will be liable for accidents caused by AVs
There has been some speculation over whether autonomous vehicle manufacturers could be liable for accidents involving their cars, but the bill puts the onus squarely on the shoulders of the insurance companies. 'Where an accident is caused by an automated vehicle when driving itself, the vehicle is insured at the time of the accident, and an insured person or any other person suffers damage as a result of the accident, the insurer is liable for that damage,' according to the bill. The issue still remains, however, about how insurance companies will determine when and how they choose to insure self-driving cars.

2. Autonomous vehicle owners are responsible for software updates
Over-the-air updates promise to help manufacturers keep their vehicles on the cutting edge of performance and safety.

The bill states that the vehicle owner will be responsible for making sure those updates are deployed. Failure to do so could result in a consequence far more severe than neglecting to upgrade to the latest version of iOS. If an autonomous vehicle owner doesn't keep his or her car's software current, it could remove the obligation of an insurance company to pay claims. The bill says, 'An insurance policy in respect of an automated vehicle may exclude or limit the insurer's liability for ... a failure to install safety-critical software updates that the insured person knows, or ought reasonably to know, are safety-critical'.

3. Gas stations may be have to become charging stations, too
Keeping in line with the common belief that autonomous vehicles will be electric vehicles, the bill also focuses on EVs.

Operating from the understanding that in order for electric vehicles to be viable on a wide scale, access to charging points needs to be plentiful, the legislation leaves open the possibility that gas stations may have to devote a portion of their real estate to charging stations.

'Regulations may impose requirements on large fuel retailers falling within a prescribed description, or service area operators falling within a prescribed description, in connection with the provision on their premises of public charging points,' according to the bill.

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