Could self-driving cars spell the end for speeding tickets?

Could self-driving cars spell the end for speeding tickets?
Drivers of self-driving or automatic vehicles (AVs) could be renamed ‘users-in-charge’ within the next two years – potentially putting a stop to speeding prosecutions.

Law experts are calling the plans ‘a conceptual leap’ and believe the name change would help to shift legal responsibilities, to match advances in technology.

Proposals from the Law Commission could transform as many as 4.5 million motoring offences committed each year into “regulatory matters”.

Its latest report suggests that once a car is classified as an AV, drivers “would not be liable for any criminal offence or civil penalty which arises out of dynamic driving. They would, however, be subject to other driver responsibilities, such as carrying insurance and reporting accidents.”

It continues: “If there is a collision caused by a vehicle driving itself... the user-in-charge could not be prosecuted for offences such as careless or dangerous driving. The user-in-charge could not be prosecuted for a wide range of other offences, such as exceeding the speed limit.”

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A consultation summary suggests ‘users-in-charge’ should also be qualified and fit to drive unless their vehicle is authorised to work without one.

In the event of an emergency AVs should use a combination of dashboard warning lights and audible alarms as multisensory alerts to tell drivers to take control.

If a driver does not respond to 10 seconds of escalating “transition demand”, AVs should perform a “minimum risk manoeuvre”, coming to a slow stop in a lane, with hazard warning lights on.

Under the new rules ‘users-in charge’ could potentially watch films, use their mobile phone or read a book during a journey. Consultations have even discussed whether provisional licence holders should be considered ‘users-in-charge’.

The report highlights that responding to a transition demand could be difficult, even for experienced drivers. It might be exceptionally challenging for a learner driver.

The Law Commission also suggests that developers, regulators and politicians will need to show that AVs create an ‘overall decline’ in injury rates.

Transport Minister Rachel Maclean said: “The UK is leading the way on the regulation of this technology, supporting innovation and putting safety at the heart of everything we do.”

Responses to the consultation should be sent by 18 March 2021.

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