Law Commission Consultation on Automated Vehicles
Consultation Question 2 (Paragraph 3.45)We seek views on whether the label “user-in-charge” conveys its intended meaning.
Consultation Question 3 (Paragraphs 3.47 - 3.57)We seek views on whether it should be a criminal offence for a user-in-charge who is subjectively aware of a risk of serious injury to fail to take reasonable steps to avert that risk.
Probably yes for SAE level 4 but not for SAE level 5 once ADS engaged for the reasons given at para 3.47 and para 3.54-56.
I do not anticipate that any new criminal liability is called for in fully autonomous vehicles at SAE L5.
Definition of risk needs to express an unacceptably high level; not any risk however small.
When would a user-in-charge not be necessary?
Consultation Question 4 (Paragraphs 3.59 - 3.77)We seek views on how automated driving systems can operate safely and effectively in the absence of a user-in-charge.
Answer:See the answer to Q1 above.
Type approval as fully automated (SAE L 5 automation) should be restricted to vehicles that have the capacity to operate in a completely driverless mode throughout its journey. I believe that this is likely to require its ADS to identify and respond appropriately to every sensory input that a human driver is required to identify and react to and to at least the standard of an experienced and competent driver (if not higher). This would include, distance of vision, hand signals and temporary road signs, weather conditions, unanticipated occurrences (#3.60) and nuanced scenarios where appropriate precautionary response / manoeuvre or to assume a minimal risk condition.
Clearly this level of automation has yet to be achieved and I understand that it may not be so for at least ten years.
Certain specified SAE L4 vehicles may have the capacity to operate safely without a user-in-charge where the automated DDT is confined to a low risk ODD where they can easily achieve a minimal risk condition without human intervention.
Consultation Question 5 (Paragraphs 3.59 - 3.77)Do you agree that powers should be made available to approve automated vehicles as able to operate without a user-in-charge?
Answer:Yes, see response to Q1 above. This qualified approval is subject to:
(i) full automation (SAE L5), and
(ii) Some highly automated vehicles (SAE L4) that have a highly prescriptive low risk ODD that cannot be overwritten in transit, where they can easily assume a minimal risk condition without human intervention and
(ii) the unmanned being fully compliant with the relevant international regulations governing road traffic: e.g. the UNECE Vienna and Geneva Conventions (#2.51; #4.14) and the EU Framework Directive 2007/46/EC (#4.19) in each instance, as amended or replaced.