The future of driverless cars: Osborne Clarke’s thoughts on today’s government review

With nearly half of the UK declaring they would take a ride in a driverless car and four cities in the UK selected for testing, the government have declared that they want the UK to become a world leader in driverless technology.

So what are the next steps? The Department of Transport have confirmed that there will need to be changes to road regulations, insurance and MOTs. In Bristol, one of the test cities, Simon Spooner, Head of Automotive at Osborne Clarke, today discussed the trials and the legal issues surrounding driverless cars.

‘Today’s report from the Government is to be welcomed – we drastically need the law to catch up with technology in this arena and the considerations in this report are a move in that direction. The advent of driverless cars is already upon us; local laws in Bristol, Coventry, Milton Keynes and Greenwich are already being examined to ensure they will allow the testing of a £19m initiative to test driverless cars in these cities.’


‘Before the man on the street can get in a driverless car certain legal issues need to be ironed out – who is going to be liable in the event of a crash, what are the rules around drink driving, how do we deal with data privacy and hacking issues? The Government’s report states that in the longer term, people won’t need a driving licence to get in a fully automated driverless car – how that will be reconciled with an adequate insurance policy remains unclear.’


‘The benefits of driverless cars are manifold and we shouldn’t lose sight of that: we’ll see a major drop off in the number of road traffic accidents each year since machines make fewer mistakes than humans, journeys will be quicker and more efficient and there will be major environmental gains as fewer cars are needed to transport people’.

‘This is a golden opportunity for the UK to steal a lead on other economies – Sweden has granted Volvo the right to test driverless cars, but not until 2017. Two years is a long time in the internet age so whatever we can achieve in that time could be exported to other countries, to the wider benefit of UK plc.’

‘Public confidence will be a key issue – a recent survey our firm ran showed that more people would ride in a driverless car than not; even today, consumers are keen to adopt this new technology. That’s great news for manufacturers and means lawmakers need to speed up their consideration of these issues to be ready for mass take up of this new technology. For anyone who says that they’re not sure about being driven around, I always say to them “well, pilots only fly planes for about 30 seconds on take off and 30 seconds on landing and nobody gives that a second thought.”‘

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