AV Bill awaits royal assent

Attention turns to secondary legislation as landmark self-driving Bill passes UK Parliament.

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Self-driving insurance and skills issues as AV Bill awaits royal assent

Following consideration of Commons amendments in the Lords on 8 May 2024, the Automated Vehicles (AV) Bill has successfully passed through Parliament.

The landmark self-driving legislation now awaits only the rubber stamp of royal assent, with some speculating this could be given within days.

We’ve covered the passage of the Bill extensively on Cars of the Future, from its inclusion in the 2023 King’s Speech to the excellent Self-Driving Vehicles All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) media briefing at Wayve.

For the sake of posterity, let us record here that its long title is: “A Bill to regulate the use of automated vehicles on roads and in other public places; and to make other provision in relation to vehicle automation.”

It was sponsored by Lord Davies of Gower, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department for Transport (DfT), and Secretary of State for Transport, Mark Harper, both Conservatives, but secured cross-party support.

Progress of the AV Bill on the Parliament website
Progress of the AV Bill on the Parliament website

Self-driving scrutiny

Lord Davies of Gower said: “My Lords, I extend my gratitude to colleagues across the House for their supportive comments on and contributions to this Bill. Your Lordships’ careful and considered scrutiny has been hugely valuable.

“Over the coming months, we will launch a comprehensive programme of secondary legislation, building the new regulatory framework piece by piece.

“This will incorporate several statutory instruments, including guidance in the form of the statement of safety principles. Among the first elements to be consulted on will be regulations on misleading marketing, as these can apply before the authorisation system has been established.”

What might this mean for Tesla’s Full Self-Driving (FSD) package, we wonder? Tellingly, prominent early reactions came from the automotive and insurance industries.

Industry reaction

Jonathan Fong, of the Association of British Insurers (ABI), said: “We’re delighted the Automated Vehicles Bill will soon receive royal assent – putting the UK on the road to being a world leader in AV technology.

“While this Bill represents a significant step forward, further consideration is needed to address concerns around safety and cybersecurity. It’s critical that insurers have access to relevant data in order to support the adoption of this technology.”

Tara Foley, CEO of AXA UK&I, agreed: “AXA UK is delighted that the Bill has now become law, paving the way for self-driving vehicles to improve road safety, boost the UK economy and enhance mobility for people with limited transport options, including the disabled and elderly.

“It’s now crucial that secondary legislation is quickly passed to address issues such as cybersecurity, data sharing and the safety principles for commercial deployment.”

Meanwhile, the Institute of the Motor Industry (IMI) was quick to highlight the technical upskilling required to service fleets of self-driving vehicles.

IMI highlights self-driving training need
IMI highlights self-driving training need

Hayley Pells, Policy Lead at the IMI, said: “The Automated Vehicles Bill 2024 addresses the liability issues of automated vehicles for manufacturers and insurers, and provides a positive pathway for the introduction of this new form of mobility that could be empowering for so many.

“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.  

“Failure to maintain and update these high-tech systems, many of which are designed to keep road users safe, really could be a matter of life and death.

“To ensure checks are carried out accurately, we desperately need more technicians to be trained to work on vehicles with this technology. We are therefore urging government and policymakers to ensure there’s the funding and infrastructure to support the essential upskilling.”

Responding to an update on the AV Bill by transport technology lawyer Alex Glassbrook, Ben Gardner of Shoosmiths suggested that royal assent could be given as soon as next week – then on to secondary legislation.

As Nelson Mandela noted in his Long Road To Freedom speech: After climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb.

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Author: Neil Kennett

Neil is MD of Featurebank Ltd. He launched Carsofthefuture.co.uk in 2019.