Britain government to amend rules for autonomous cars

Published: July 12, 2016 

The UK government has proposed new amendments to insurance legislation and the Highway Code as it seeks to drive the development of autonomous vehicle technology and safety of drivers.

Under the proposed measures by the UK government, rules will be changed so automated vehicles can be insured for use on the roads. In addition, the Highway code and regulations are to be altered so advanced driver assistance systems that change lanes on the motorway and park the vehicle by remote control can be used safely.

Separately, the government will next month launch a competition for a further £30 million from the Intelligent Mobility Fund, for research and development of innovative connected and autonomous vehicle technologies. This builds on the first £20 million awarded to a number of projects in February, and ensures the UK is able to take advantage of the latest technological developments in driverless cars research. Along with that, an additional £19 million fund is also paving the way for driverless car projects in Greenwich, Bristol, and a joint project in Milton Keynes and Coventry.

Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin said:

Driverless car technology will revolutionise the way we travel and deliver better journeys. Britain is leading the way but I want everyone to have the chance to have a say on how we embrace and use these technologies. Our roads are already some of the safest in the world and increasing advanced driver assist and driverless technologies have the potential to help cut the number of accidents further.

This move has come after the much-hyped Tesla accident and now motor insurance will remain compulsory but will be extended to cover product liability for automated vehicles, so that if a driver has handed over control to their vehicle, they can be reassured that their insurance will still be valid if something goes wrong. The Department for Transport has been in talks with the Association of British Insurers’ (ABI’s) automated driving insurer group over these issues for some time.

Mercedes’ autonomous F015 concept

Cars with advanced driver assistance features, like remote control parking and motorway assist, are expected to be on sale in Britain in the next 2 to 4 years with automated and driverless vehicles expected on the roads any time from the mid-2020s onwards. Advanced driver assistance systems and ‘self-driving’ technologies will transform travel helping deliver safer, smoother and smarter road journeys.

Under the proposals:

  • the ‘Highway code’ and regulations will be changed to support the safe use of remote control parking and motorway assist features
  • insurance law will be changed so that, in the future, motorists who have handed control to their ‘self-driving’ cars can be insured properly

James Dalton, Director of General Insurance Policy at the Association of British Insurers (ABI), said:

The ABI’s Automated Driving Insurer Group has been engaged in constructive and productive discussions with the DfT for many months now so it is good to see the importance of insurance to the vehicles of the future recognised within this consultation. The development of automated driving will revolutionise motoring, potentially as important a road safety innovation as the seatbelt. Insurers strongly support the Government’s ambition of making the UK a world leader in this technology and believe the insurance industry has a key role in helping give consumers confidence in using these vehicles when they become more widely available.

Cars with features such as remote controlled parking and motorway assistance are expected to be widely available in the UK by the end of the decade. The timetable for fully-autonomous cars has not been fixed, although the government said it expected such vehicles to take to the roads from 2025 onwards.


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