Improving Wetware

Because technology is never the issue

A legal framework for automated vehicles

Posted by Pete McBreen 27 Jan 2022 at 23:01

Good news out of the UK, proposal for a new Automated Vehicle Act that transfers liability from the person in the driving seat to the “Authorised Self-Driving Entity” (ADSE) (aka the Manufacturer). The person in the driving seat becomes the “user-in-charge” (UIC), responsible for the condition of the vehicle, the ADSE is responsible for “the way the vehicle drives, ranging from dangerous or careless driving, to exceeding the speed limit or running a red light”.

Proposal also covers “no user-in-charge” (NUIC) where any occupants are merely passengers. “Responsibilities for overseeing the journey will be undertaken by an organisation, a licensed NUIC operator.”

A key new part of this idea is the prevention of misleading marketing

The distinction between driver assistance and self-driving is crucial. Yet many drivers are currently confused about where the boundary lies. This can be dangerous. This problem is aggravated if marketing gives drivers the misleading impression that they do not need to monitor the road while driving - even though the technology is not good enough to be self-driving.

An ASDE is the vehicle manufacturer or software developer who puts an AV forward for authorisation. Our proposals provide some flexibility over the identity of the ASDE: it may be a vehicle manufacturer, or a software developer, or a partnership between the two. However, the ASDE must show that it was closely involved in assessing the safety of the vehicle. It must also be of good repute and have sufficient funds to respond to regulatory action (including organising a recall).

The onus will be on the ASDE to show that the vehicle meets the tests for authorisation. As a minimum, the ASDE would be expected to present evidence of approval, a safety case and an equality impact assessment.

Obviously the devil will be in the details, but this is a massive change in the way that software is covered by the law. Most software falls under the category whereby the developers basically disclaim all responsibility for the operation of the software, but this proposed framework changes that. Even if the vehicle requests a handover to the person in the driving seat, the ASDE remains responsible if the Automated Driving System caused the issue, their example being

While in self-driving mode, an automated vehicle turns into a one-way street in the wrong direction. The user-in-charge takes over but is unable to avoid a collision. Alternatively, no collision takes place, but in the moment the user-in-charge takes over, they are driving in the wrong direction and may be guilty of an offence on that basis.