Shoosmiths LLP
  May 20, 2024 - Milton Keynes, England

Automated Vehicles Act: next steps for the sector
  by Shoosmiths LLP

The Automated Vehicles Act has received Royal Assent after a smooth and quick passage through parliament. In this article, Ben Gardner outlines what organisations in the sector can expect to happen next.

What is the Automated Vehicles Act?

The Act lays the foundations for the future deployment of automated vehicles on public roads. It does this by introducing new regimes and concepts for matters the current regulatory landscape does not cover, and amending existing laws to remove legal obstacles, grey areas, and uncertainty.

This follows a lengthy regulatory review and consultation process which engaged with a range of industry and other experts in order to help shape the scope and content of the Act. Shoosmiths was involved extensively throughout this process and responded to the government’s final call for evidence before the Act became law.

It will provide a significant boost to the UK’s connected and automated mobility (CAM) sector and help to unlock many of the social, economic, and environmental benefits that CAM can bring more generally.

A framework for future regulations

Although the Act is a positive step towards removing current legal obstacles to CAM deployment on UK roads, it is largely a framework that sets out a wide range of overarching principles that require a number of detailed and technical regulations to be created at a later stage. These regulations will cover matters such as vehicle approval and authorisation, operator licensing, in-use regulation, incident investigation, and marketing offences.

The process of developing and approving the required regulations must now begin. The government has already confirmed that it will be issuing multiple consultations throughout 2024 to 2025, with the required regulations being laid in 2025 to 2026. The consultation phase will provide organisations operating in the CAM sector with the opportunity to support and influence the content of the regulatory regime that will apply to the products and services they intend to offer.

Timescales and challenges of the Act

The timescales above are subject to government priorities and parliamentary time. Fortunately, the Act has cross-party support, but a general election in the UK will impact what is already a challenging timetable to develop and approve the required regulations. In the meantime, we are likely to see updated guidance for organisations. These will include how they can run advanced trials of automated vehicles without safety drivers on public roads, and further detail about the safety principles which will apply to automated vehicles that fall within scope of the Act.

The rationale for positioning the Act as a framework piece of legislation is that the automated vehicle industry is highly technical and fast changing. This would make the creation of a comprehensive and definitive set of laws in one sitting impractical, time consuming, and unlikely to move the UK forward in terms of realising the CAM opportunity quickly enough.

As a result, the Act is to be welcomed and will make the UK a more attractive location for organisations that want to develop, test and commercialise CAM products and services. The onus is now on the government to allocate sufficient focus and resource towards keeping the regulatory timetable on track so the UK remains ahead of the global competition.

More information

This is the first of a series of articles looking at the implications of the Automated Vehicles Act becoming law.

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