DfT report paves way for new AV rules

The Department for Transport and the Centre for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles
have published the findings of cognitive testing research into whether the revised Highway Code wording about automated vehicles is clearly understood by drivers.

The findings make for interesting reading, and will be of particular use to insurers and fleet managers as they grapple with the evolving risks and issues.

Daniel West, partner and head of product liability at Horwich Farrelly, says it will be especially important to examine the types of activities that the ‘user-in-charge’ should be allowed to do while their autonomous vehicle is driving itself.

“The issue was considered by the Law Commission (in its report published on 26th January 2022). For a vehicle to be considered self-driving, the Law Commission recommends that users should not be required to monitor the driving environment but should be allowed to engage in some (but not all) other activities – so long as they are able to take back control in response to a ‘transmission demand’,” West commented.

“The types of activities which will be permitted will depend on considerations such as the length of time required for a user to regain situational awareness and the level of immersion in the other activity. For example, the report recommends a cautious approach regarding sleeping and the use of phones. However, the use of on board screens for things like checking email or even watching TV and films is seen as less intrusive because the screen will cut out at the start of a transition demand."

For motor insurers, West says that the transition demand period and the ability of the user to respond to that will be an important consideration. "A failure to respond appropriately, or at all, can mean the user becomes culpable for any resulting collision," he adds. "Therefore, the types of activities that a user is permitted to undertake will have a significant impact on the risk that insurers assign to an automated driving system.”

The DfT’s report may be read here: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/1062695/highway-code-update-cognitive-testing-summary-report.pdf

See the May-June issue of CIR Magazine for more on the implications of developments in automated vehicle technology, adoption and regulation.

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