Self-driving cars are coming – we all know that, but there are a lot of issues that need to be overcome before we see a lot of these vehicles on the road. I’ve written several articles on self-driving vehicles over the past two years, and this article is just another on the subject as more information and questions arise.
In an article by Haroon Siddique, legal affairs correspondent for The Guardian, a UK daily, he says UK legal commissions have jointly recommended that users of self-driving cars be granted immunity from a wide range of traffic offences, including dangerous driving, speeding and jumping red lights. The Law Commission for England and Wales and the Scottish Law Commission are proposing the creation of an Automated Vehicles Act to reflect the “profound legal consequences” self-driving cars. The person occupying the driver’s seat would no longer be responsible for driving the car; instead, the company or organization that obtained authorization for the self-driving vehicle would face regulatory penalties if something goes wrong.
The commissions say: “While a vehicle is driving itself, we don’t believe a human should be required to respond to events in the absence of a transition request (a requirement for the driver to take control). It is unrealistic to expect someone who is not paying attention to the road to deal with (for example) a tire blowout or a closed road sign. Even hearing ambulance sirens will be difficult for those with hearing impairments or who listen to loud music.
Interesting points. There are so many possibilities that drivers have to deal with almost on a daily basis, and before going all out with self-driving vehicles, we need to be sure the engineers would have thought of all the possibilities that might be encountered. This expectation may be unrealistic, but if so, what if? What assurance could we have that nothing could go wrong? The report says there should be a clear distinction between driver assistance and autonomous driving and that a vehicle should only be classified in the latter category if it is safe, even when a person is not monitoring the driving environment, the vehicle or the way it drives.
The commissions say a self-driving car should be allowed to create a transition request for the driver to take control if they’re faced with a problem they can’t solve, but they must make the request in a way clear, give the driver enough time to respond, and be able to mitigate the risk if a human fails to take over, by at least stopping.
Transport Minister Trudy Harrison said: “The development of autonomous vehicles in the UK has the potential to revolutionize travel, making daily journeys safer, easier and greener.
“This government has encouraged the development and deployment of these technologies to understand their benefits, but we need to make sure we have the right regulations in place, based on safety and accountability, to build public trust.”
According to the recommendations, the responsible user of an autonomous vehicle would still retain responsibilities such as purchasing insurance and making sure children wear seat belts. Where vehicles are allowed to drive themselves without anyone in the driver’s seat, a licensed operator would oversee the journey.
So many interesting points to ponder, don’t you think?