UK autonomous vehicles deployment takes a step forward

The King’s Speech promise of an Automated Vehicles Bill could be an industry landmark, writes Sarah Riding

Autonomous vehicle (AV) developments came under the spotlight in the UK during the King’s Speech on 7 November. The speech traditionally marks the state opening of parliament and outlines the legislative agenda. This year it entailed the promise of an Automated Vehicles Bill to ensure the safe deployment of self-driving vehicles. This is potentially a great landmark for the automotive industry in terms of industry, employment and consumer needs.

However, the ambitions outlined that are intended to facilitate this—penned as unlocking a transport revolution— should be carefully digested where the realities of delivering against this by 2030 are concerned. The elements of driving connected to the automotive industry—such as road maintenance for example—will surely need to be better maintained where things like potholes and cracks, which are not programmed within autonomous vehicles to recognise, are concerned.

Autonomous vehicles have been running road trials in London

Of course, we are yet to see how the legislation is fully outlined, except for the clear statements about ensuring there is transparent legal liability over who or which organisation is responsible during crashes involving self-driving cars—thereby removing the liability for crashes from drivers themselves in unfair scenarios. However, while there are concerns that this may discourage manufacturers from investing in the UK automotive market it’s actually more likely to encourage them to focus more heavily on safety than ever before, and protect consumers further in the long run. Of course, drivers retain the responsibility for non-driving aspects such as insurance and roadworthiness. Furthermore, there is the possibility that the legislation or the thinking that’s gone into it will be the subject of a consultation that allows any key issues not addressed to be ironed out ahead of its official launch.

Aside from this, it is an exciting and long overdue development that will allow the UK to step up to the level that other countries have in terms of a full deployment of autonomous vehicles that facilitate the industry to develop more commercially here—with safety being the key priority of course, something which the government has been focused on prioritising up until now where delivering these long-awaited measures are concerned.

The employment and business development opportunities this bill is likely to trigger will also boost private and public sector economies and lessen the impact of increasing operating costs and cost-of-living crisis—indeed, the R&D opportunities where technological development around accessibility and safety are concerned are likely to encourage both investment and engagement, elements that could help the UK economy further flourish.

The opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the positions of Automotive World Ltd.

Sarah Riding is head of automotive at the law firm Gowling WLG

The Automotive World Comment column is open to automotive industry decision makers and influencers. If you would like to contribute a Comment article, please contact


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