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Freshfields Risk & Compliance

| 2 minutes read

Automated Vehicles Bill passes through UK Parliament

The Automated Vehicles Bill was passed by the House of Lords and the House of Commons last week and is set to become law in the UK, once it receives Royal Assent. 


The Bill proved to be uncontroversial in Parliament, and has been passed without any significant amendment. As outlined in our previous blog here, the Bill largely follows recommendations made by the Law Commissions of England, Wales and Scotland following a four-year review of self-driving vehicle legislation. Once in force, the exact timing of which is currently uncertain, the Automated Vehicles Act will provide for the following:

  • A new regulatory and liability scheme for automated vehicles (AVs), including: 
    • a requirement for AVs to pass a self-driving safety test in order to be authorised as such;
    • licensing of Authorised Self Driving Entities and No-User-In-Charge Operators, responsible for ensuring that AVs pass the safety test, and for the detection of / response to issues arising during a self-driving journey, respectively;
    • requirements to provide certain information regarding AV safety to regulators; 
    • criminal and civil sanctions for non-compliance; and
    • immunity for ‘drivers’ in relation to incidents where the vehicle in question was driving autonomously at the relevant time. 
  • Marketing restrictions, including:
    • an outright prohibition on use of certain designated terms in marketing other than marketing related to authorised AVs;
    • prohibition on marketing that would be likely to confuse end-users as to whether the vehicle in question is an authorised AV; and 
    • criminal and civil penalties for non-compliance. 
  • Powers for the Secretary of State to amend related legislative regimes (such as type approval legislation).
  • Introduction of a permit system for automated passenger services (such as driverless shuttle buses). 

Industry reaction 

The automotive industry has generally responded positively to the Bill. For example, the Society of Motor Manufacturers & Traders (SMMT) has previously commented that “Manufacturers and developers are investing billions in this cutting-edge tech and the Bill will help us move from trial to deployment, essential if we are to the deliver the jobs, growth, road safety and increased business efficiency that connected and automated mobility offers.”

Commenting on the Bill’s passage last week, the Association of British Insurers commented that “While this bill represents a significant step forward, further consideration is needed to address concerns around safety and cyber security. It’s critical that insurers have access to relevant data in order to support the adoption of this technology.” Further, the Institute of the Motor Industry commented that “Clearly this is just the first step, and the IMI is keen to ensure that future legislation also takes into account the skills that will be crucial in the aftermarket for safe use of automated vehicles.”

Next steps

While the Bill sets out the overall framework to govern authorisation and regulation of AVs, secondary legislation will be sure to follow in order to provide for more detailed regulation, including for example specific AV type approval requirements.

The precise content, and timing, of such measures will remain to be seen, however it may be that there will be no further updates on this front before the looming general election.