Autonomous cars could be allowed to break the speed limit

Autonomous cars could be allowed to break the speed limit

Rule clarification could help develop a "digital Highway Code"

THE LAW Commission has launched a consultation period to analyse how driving laws may need amending, should fully autonomous cars arrive on our roads.

In an initial report, the Commission looks at the potential need for a “digital Highway Code” that could allow certain autonomous cars to exceed legal limits in specific situations, such as when it would help improve traffic flow or to overtake a hazard ahead.

Areas where laws may need to be changed or replaced are also put forward in the report. Feedback on whether current rules outlaw the tampering of sensors on autonomous cars is being welcomed, as are responses to queries such as if self-driving cars can be programmed to avoid sudden hazards in the road by momentarily driving on the pavement.

Not all of the UK’s driving laws will need to be completely rewritten, however. According to the Law Commission, most legislation for driving offences wouldn’t need drastic changes to accommodate self-driving cars, as their current wording doesn’t completely prevent autonomous driving from UK roads.

Likewise, the body believes most requirements for human drivers won’t be changed in the near future because, to ensure they can take control of a semi-autonomous car should the autonomous systems fail, the “user-in-charge” will still need a valid driving licence and must not be over the drink-drive limit.

The consultation period will run until February 8, 2019, and further discussions are being planned as part of a three-year review on the topic. Consultation feedback will also help inform the future direction of the UK’s transport laws.

Jesse Norman, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Transport, said: “The UK is in the early stages of an exciting and profound set of changes in how people, goods and services move around the country.

“With automated driving technology advancing rapidly, it is important that our laws and regulations keep pace so that the UK can remain a world leader in this field.”

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