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DfT urged to take action on telematics & driverless cars

A new report from the Transport Select Committee says that new automotive technologies could unblock congested highways, deliver a step change in road safety and provide the basis for rapid industrial growth, but adds that “the Government must do more to ensure that people and businesses in the UK benefit from this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity”.

It adds that the DfT should:

  • Clarify how the introduction of self-driving cars will affect the liabilities of drivers, manufacturers and insurers.
  • Positively engage in setting European and international standards that will help UK manufacturers develop products suitable for export.
  • Ask the Information Commissioner to update guidelines on the collection, access and use of vehicle data.
  • Use data on driver behaviour held by the insurance industry and others to inform policy making and improve road safety.

Louise Ellman MP, chair of the Transport Committee, said: "The public need to be sure that new types of vehicles are safe to travel on our roads. The Government must do more to prepare for a transition period where manual, semi-autonomous and driverless vehicles will share UK roads. Transport Ministers must explain how different types of vehicles will be certified and tested, how drivers will be trained and how driving standards will be updated, monitored and enforced." 

Meanwhile as revealed by the Financial Times, Ms Ellman also called for a minister to oversee the technology.

“The Government should be more active and have a much more holistic strategy to make sure this new technology has the maximum effect,” she said. “We need someone in charge of this, looking across manufacturing, technology, regulation and testing.”

Business law firm DWF greeted the findings. Caroline Coates, head of automotive, said: “The Committee is right to highlight the economic benefit autonomous vehicles could bring to the UK and the need for a comprehensive strategy to deliver this.

"The legislative and regulatory changes required to ensure that driverless vehicles are viable and safe for the mass market are complex and will require significant industry involvement. This is particularly challenging in the short term when, as the report says, we will have different levels of automation on the roads and will be of particular concern to insurers. The Code of Practice on testing due this spring is an important step in the right direction in this regard.

“In the longer term, if the full potential of this technology is ever to be realised, government must have not just a strategy but a vision for how this can be implemented. The transformational impact of this will extend far beyond the limitations of the current road network. For example, where we live and work and the types of buildings we need could be radically different. Our experience thus far with electric vehicles is a warning against taking a piecemeal approach.”

Wil Rockall, director in KPMG’s cyber security practice, also welcomed the suggestion that the government should appoint a minister to oversee the introduction of new automotive technologies, including driverless cars.

He said: “Any effort to help the UK capitalise on the opportunity driverless cars will bring is a step in the right direction.

“We hope that any government efforts around increasing the uptake of connected cars also considers the risks, safety and privacy of all road users that weak cyber security could bring so that entire market is also able to benefit.

“As the connected cars progresses, the use of technology to facilitate and cover up crime inevitable will go up. The technology is being developed now, so it's something that has to be thought about now. It would be a disaster if in 10 years’ time we look back and think: ‘we should have thought about that’.”


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Natalie Middleton

Natalie has worked as a fleet journalist for nearly 20 years, previously as assistant editor on the former Company Car magazine before joining Fleet World in 2006. Prior to this, she worked on a range of B2B titles, including Insurance Age and Insurance Day.