Autonomous Vehicles – Some thoughts – Part One

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Over the past decade, autonomous vehicles have moved from fiction to reality, long gone are the days of David Hasselhoff talking to his car ‘Kit’ in Night Rider, autonomous vehicles are around the corner and this brings an air of excitement, with some dread at the complexities around the corner. There are predictions that fully autonomous vehicles will be on the road by 2021, and those born today may never need driving licences. Whilst this is exciting, there are numerous challenges to be faced particularly in relation to regulation. The most cited legal question is with regards to liability, who pays when a vehicle crashes, the driver or the manufacturer? This is not necessarily going to be the most difficult challenge to resolve, there are numerous challenges encompassing different areas of law such as insurance, liability, intellectual property, data protection, EU Law (and Brexit), and cyber security.

The government has begun to tackle the issue of insurance and liability through the introduction of the Automated and Electric Vehicles Bill (previously the Aviation and Technology Bill introduced in the last Parliament, it is likely that the new Bill will use the majority of features from the previous Bill), this Bill will be discussed in later articles. Cyber challenges are also taken very seriously with the potential for widespread damage caused by the mass-hacking of these vehicles, and there are potential disputes with regards to who owns the mass data arising from these vehicles.

Whilst it is positive that the UK government is attempting to deal with these issues, the difficulty will likely be in ensuring that the law keeps up with the challenges faced by the rapid development of this technology.

This article is a part of a series by Mathew Channon. You may find the next article here.

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