Government urged to outlaw remotely driven vehicles…for now

Government urged to outlaw remotely driven vehicles from Britain’s roads until it has rubberstamped ‘robust regulations’ for their safe use

  • Law Commission made recommendations in new paper around remote vehicles
  • Tech is already in use in controlled environment, such as warehouses and farms
  • Potential future applications include delivery of rental cars to customers 

The Government should ban remotely driven vehicles that are beginning to arrive from abroad until it has outlined ‘robust regulations’ to ensure they’re safe, a new review has concluded.

The Law Commission of England and Wales made the recommendation in a newly published advice paper to ministers on how to regulate vehicles being controlled by individuals in remote locations.

The technology is already being deployed in controlled environments such as warehouses, on farms and heavy-duty vehicles in the mining industry, but potential future applications include the delivery of rental cars to customers on the road.

Remote driving of vehicles from abroad should be banned in the UK, a government commissioned review has found

Remote driving technology enables a person to drive a vehicle from a remote location – and the system haves seen rapid advancements in recent years. 

Jaguar Land Rover to open three European self-driving tech hubs

Luxury carmaker Jaguar Land Rover will open three new engineering hubs in Europe to develop autonomous vehicle technologies as part of its partnership with Silicon Valley artificial intelligence company Nvidia.

The hubs in Munich, Bologna and Madrid will develop self-driving systems for JLR’s next generation of luxury vehicles. JLR already has six global tech hubs the United States, China and Europe.

JLR, unit of India’s Tata Motors, said the locations were chosen because of the local availability of digital engineering specialists and will create almost 100 engineering jobs focused ‘on developing driver assistance systems and artificial intelligence for self-driving cars of the future.’

The tech has several potential applications and may also be used in trials of self-driving vehicles. 

Whereas most UK trials of self-driving vehicles have an in-vehicle ‘safety driver’, there is increasing interest in using remote driving technology to enable the safety driver to be located outside the vehicle. 

Safety challenges considered in the review paper include establishing reliable connectivity, driver situational awareness, a possible sense of ‘detachment’ from the physical world, and cybersecurity – such as the threat of a terrorist seizing control of a vehicle.

The commission concludes in its advice that remote driving on roads and public places should only be allowed if companies obtain special permissions.

It added that ‘difficulties in enforcement’ means remote driving from abroad should be prohibited ‘until appropriate international agreements are in place’.

There is currently no specific UK legal requirement for a driver to be in the vehicle they are controlling.

The review also stated that a remote driver should be responsible for their actions in the same way as someone sitting behind the wheel of a vehicle, but there should be no liability for faults beyond their control such as connectivity failures.

The mining industry is already using remotely controlled heavy duty vehicles at different locations

The mining industry is already using remotely controlled heavy duty vehicles at different locations

Public Law Commissioner Nicholas Paines KC said: ‘Remote driving is an exciting technology, but before we see remotely operated cars on UK roads we must address safety concerns through strong regulation.

‘Our advice concludes that in the immediate term, the Government would be able to address some gaps in the law around remote driving using existing powers, while also providing a path for companies to use the technology lawfully provided that their systems are safe.

‘In the longer term, it could set up a full system of remote driving regulation.

‘Regulations must respond to other fundamental concerns around security threats and liability in the event of an accident.

‘Our advice paper sets out a roadmap for how the Government can address these problems, whilst also encouraging companies to innovate.’

We must address safety concerns through strong regulation

Nicholas Paines KC, Public Law Commissioner

Transport minister Jesse Norman said: ‘Remote driving is already being successfully used off-road in several industries and has huge potential to provide new services and safety features for road vehicles.

‘The Government needs to ensure that safety is at the forefront of the use of any new technology, and the department will carefully consider the Law Commission’s recommendations.’