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An Automated Vehicles (AV) Bill, recently published by UK ministers, is set to deliver one of the most comprehensive legal frameworks for self-driving cars to date. It comes as the government widens funding and support for self-driving technology trials in the UK.

The new rigorous standards will protect consumers and the public, with robust testing required before self-driving cars can hit the road. According to the Department for Transport (DfT), the legislation will clarify liability for the user, set the legal threshold for self-driving safety, and establish a regulatory scheme for the monitoring of automated vehicles.

Recommendations from a review of self-driving vehicle regulation, carried out by the Law Commission of England and Wales and the Scottish Law Commission, have been implemented in the Bill which, at its core, aims to achieve the safety and protection of self-driving vehicle users.

The framework sets a safety threshold for AVs in law and allows the government to enforce the new standards, holding companies accountable. The clarified legal liabilities will make companies responsible for the performance of self-driving vehicles on the road, protecting users.

Mark Harper, transport secretary, said: “Our new Bill ensures safety is at the heart of our plans to see self-driving vehicles on our roads, making the UK a great place to develop this technology. We have the opportunity to put the UK at the forefront of a fast-growing, multi-billion-pound industry by providing the clarity and certainty for business to develop and invest in this exciting technology.”

The framework in the Bill will also prohibit misleading market practices, such as using ambiguous terminology in advertising for what classifies as a self-driving vehicle. Every authorised AV will also be required to have a corresponding Authorised Self-Driving Entity, usually the manufacturer, which is responsible for its behaviour on the road.

The King’s speech, from the 7th of November, stated: “A company, rather than an individual, will be responsible for the way [the vehicle] drives. They will be required to report certain safety-related data to the authorisation authority and the in-use regulator and to comply with other relevant laws, including data protection and environmental protection legislation.” 

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