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Press ahead with legislation for self-driving vehicles, says Transport Committee

If the Government is going to meet its ambitions for self-driving vehicle deployment, several 'knotty issues' need to be addressed

15 September 2023
Transport Committee Chair Iain Stewart
Transport Committee Chair Iain Stewart


Parliament’s Transport Committe has published its report on the future of self-driving vehicles (SDVs) and how the Government should approach their introduction to the UK’s roads. Intelligent Transport Systems UK (ITS UK) has welcomed the report, calling for the Government to press ahead with legislation for self-driving vehicles.

Read the report and supporting documents here

Transport Committee Chair Iain Stewart said: “Thanks to the energy and creativity of the self-driving vehicles sector, the UK has a head start in developing a vision for how SDVs could be introduced. The Government’s strategy is one this Committee broadly welcomes.  

“Self-driving vehicles are a great British success story in the making and we have a competitive advantage over many other countries. But all that hard work could be at risk if the Government doesn’t follow through and bring forward a Transport Bill in the next Parliamentary session, before the next general election.  

“Widespread take-up of SDVs faces various hurdles, including public confidence in their safety, security and their potential to have knock-on impacts on other road users. If the Government is going to meet its ambitions for self-driving vehicle deployment these knotty issues need to be addressed. We believe the Government should take a cautious, gradual approach, with SDV technologies only initially introduced in well-defined contexts, or else we risk unintended consequences."

Responding to the report, Max Sugarman, Chief Executive of Intelligent Transport Systems UK (ITS UK), said: “Last week, as Parliament returned from summer recess, we published a letter to the Prime Minister signed by more than 50 organisations from the transport technology sector calling for a Future of Transport Bill to be introduced in the King’s Speech.

"So, today, it’s great to see Parliament’s Transport Committee back the call for legislation, urging the Government to move forward with measures for the safe, secure and successful introduction of self and remote-driving.

“The UK transport technology sector is critical for the UK and can do even more in supporting jobs, investment and economic growth across the country. Trials of self-driving vehicles show the potential of this technology, yet without the right regulatory and policy environment, the UK is at risk of losing its competitive advantage and not making full use of the fantastic work being developed in our connected and automated mobility sector.

“Now is the time for the Government to move forward, building upon the Law Commission’s recommendations, to set out a legal framework in which this sector can grow and thrive further. By doing so, we can ensure this technology is rolled out in the right way, allowing the transport network to reap the many benefits self-driving technology provides.”

Government urged to legislate  

The Committee heard that current laws for SDVs are archaic and limiting, especially concerning testing and legal liability. Witnesses told us the sector is “crying out” for regulation. We commend the work of the Law Commissions and the Government in devising a new legal framework, Connected & Automated Mobility 2025. That framework has broad support, albeit with more detail needed in some areas. This makes it disappointing that the Government has not committed to legislating in this Parliament to put this framework in place.??  

The SDVs sector is a British success story, and the UK has a competitive advantage that we must maintain. The Committee urges Government to pass comprehensive legislation in the next parliamentary session to put in place the robust regulatory framework it promised. This should cover vehicle approvals, liability for accidents, cybersecurity, and the use of?personal data. Failing to do so will do significant and lasting damage both to the UK's SDVs industry and the country's reputation as a trailblazer. 

However, the Government must take a cautious, gradual approach with the technology introduced only in well-defined and appropriate contexts. As such, the Committee broadly welcomes the Government’s strategy set out in August 2022. However, without careful handling, there are concerns that SDVs could worsen congestion and exacerbate inequalities in transport access if, for example, self-driving private hire vehicles are unable to offer the same assistance to disabled people as human-driven ones.

Government must ensure the introduction of SDVs is responsive to the wider population and meets the UK’s transport policy objectives, which are the subject of a separate inquiry by the Transport Committee.  

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