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  • International Workplace
  • 21 March 2018
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Government road safety initiatives to change the way workers travel

Government initiatives to improve road safety for all could see the way employees travel to and for work changing significantly.

It has commissioned a detailed review of driving laws to ensure the UK remains one of the best places in the world to develop, test and drive self-driving vehicles.

Roads Minister, Jesse Norman, announced the start of a three-year review by the Law Commission of England and Wales and the Scottish Law Commission to examine any legal obstacles to the widespread introduction of self-driving vehicles and highlight the need for regulatory reforms.

The work will be crucial in examining how current driving laws – designed with traditional motoring in mind – can support the next generation of vehicles.

Key aspects will be adjusting traditional laws to reflect the fact self-driving vehicles of the future will not have a ‘driver’ or perhaps even a ‘steering wheel’ like traditional cars and also consider some of the criminal offences involved.

The review is part of the Future of Mobility Grand Challenge set out in the government’s Industrial Strategy.

Roads Minister, Jesse Norman, said:

“The UK is a world leader for self-driving vehicle research and development, and this work marks an important milestone in our continued commitment to the technology.

“With driving technology advancing at an unprecedented rate, it is important that our laws and regulations keep pace so that the UK can remain one of the world leaders in this field.”

The Law Commissions’ joint project will examine difficult areas of law in order to develop a regulatory framework that is ready for self-driving vehicles.

The project will review and answer key questions, such as:

  • who is the ‘driver’ or responsible person, as appropriate;
  • how to allocate civil and criminal responsibility where there is some shared control in a human-machine interface;
  • the role of automated vehicles within public transport networks and emerging platforms for on-demand passenger transport, car sharing and new business models providing mobility as a service;
  • whether there is a need for new criminal offences to deal with novel types of conduct and interference; and
  • what is the impact on other road users and how they can be protected from risk.

Law Commissioner, Nicholas Paines QC, said:

“British roads are already among the safest in the world and automated vehicles have the potential to make them even safer. Provided our laws are ready for them. We’ll now start consulting widely on how the law should work with this new technology and develop reforms which enable the use of self-driving vehicles in the years to come.”

Scottish Law Commissioner, Caroline Drummond, said:

“Automated vehicles could have a big impact on the way we live and work so it’s important that, UK-wide, we have a legal system which can accommodate them.”

Jesse Norman announced the review during a visit to the GATEway project in Greenwich. The project, which is led by the UK’s TRL, has worked on a number of innovative trials and demonstrations, including an autonomous delivery pod with Ocado and an automated valet parking trial.

Rob Wallis, CEO of TRL, said:

“We are seeing a global revolution in transport, transforming how we will travel in the future. Connectivity, electrification, automation and shared mobility are the four main themes driving this innovation.

“Regulation, safety standards and vehicle insurance models all have a key part to play in enabling change, whilst giving society confidence that these new products and services can be introduced safely. The GATEway project, led by TRL, is providing vital scientific insight to help shape future regulatory standards and to better understand public perceptions associated with these new mobility solutions.”

Meanwhile, Jesse Norman – also the Cycling Minister – is addressing road safety through new plans to help people to walk and cycle more, as part of a push for the UK to leave cars behind for shorter journeys.

This comes as the Department for Transport publishes a call for evidence on cycling in this country, asking for a range of views and opinions from the public on everything from improved infrastructure to education for all road users.

Mr Norman said:

“We need to become a nation of cyclists, and this government wants to make cycling the natural choice of transport for people of all ages and backgrounds.

“The call for evidence published today will support an open, comprehensive and thorough review across government to encourage active travel and improve safety for all road users, and I hope that as many people as possible take the time to read and respond to it.

“We are determined to make cycling safer and easier across the country, and we are continuing to invest. Today we’re announcing an investment of £100,000 each in three innovative cycle safety projects, in addition to the recent £7m of funding to improve cycle safety. This is all part of the first-ever statutory Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy.”

This announcement comes as a report, recommending that there is a case for a new offence to be introduced to tackle dangerous cycling, has been published by the Department for Transport.

The independent report, written by legal expert Laura Thomas, finds there is a strong case for changing the law to tackle the issue of dangerous and careless cycling that causes injury or death. If this were to be introduced, it would bring cycling in line with serious driving offences.

Xavier Brice, CEO of walking and cycling charity, Sustrans said:

“Road safety applies to everyone, regardless of travel mode and we broadly support the case for a new offence to tackle dangerous cycling. However, it must remain proportional as people on bikes rarely cause harm to others through their own actions but, like pedestrians, are particularly vulnerable to motor vehicles which are by far the largest cause of death and serious injury on our roads. It is therefore good to see this as only one part of a much wider safety review to enable more people to walk and cycle every day.”

In April last year, the government published the Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy, setting out its vision to remove barriers and double the number of cyclists by 2025.

Therefore, the remaining £500,000 will be set aside to support Cycling UK’s Big Bike Revival project – a successful initiative which is helping to get more people cycling safely and confidently across the country.

The government wants cycling and walking to become the norm by 2040 and will target funding at innovative ways to encourage people onto a bike or to use their own two feet for shorter journeys.