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DAC Beachcroft responds to latest Law Commission Automated Vehicles consultation

DAC Beachcroft has lodged its response to the second consultation paper in the Law Commission’s Automated Vehicles project, this consultation dealing with passenger services and public transport.

DAC Beachcroft believes that the widespread deployment of passenger-only vehicles (known as Highly Automated Road Passenger Services or HARPS) will not be seen for a significant period of time.  Meanwhile there are various issues regarding the safe deployment of highly automated vehicles that must be addressed as a matter of priority.  These include data and cybersecurity, and having clear rules about drivers resuming control. These issues must be resolved to ensure that there is consumer confidence in both purchasing and using automated vehicles, and to make sure that the Automated and Electric Vehicles Act 2018 can be applied in a practical manner.

Key submissions include:

•  HARPS should be subject to a single, national system of operator licensing as it will enable better and more flexible regulation, reduce costs, avoid jurisdictional difficulties and facilitate a higher level of market penetration by potential operators.
•  Safety standards should be set at a national level in order to address the significant problem of the current lack of customer confidence in the technology. This could be achieved by means of introducing measures that ensure the vehicle is safe and fit for purpose before it is allowed for use and an MOT test for autonomous vehicles already in use.
•  The licensing scheme needs to ensure that: operators prioritise passenger safety; it is not so onerous as to keep small groups from operating HARPS; it is future-proof in order to accommodate the changing nature of vehicle ownership and usage.
•  In order to obtain a licence a HARPS operator must be able to demonstrate that it is of good repute and has appropriate financial standing, suitable premises and a suitable transport manager to oversee operations. In addition, operators should be under a legal obligation to ensure roadworthiness and able to demonstrate that they have facilities or arrangements suitable for maintaining vehicles and operating systems in a fit and serviceable condition.
•  HARPS operators should be under a legal duty to insure and supervise vehicles, report accidents and protect passenger from assault, abuse or harassment.
•  In response to the suggestion that operators should be under a duty to report “untoward events”, there are issues about the potential impact of data protection legislation.
•  The HARPS operator licensing system should be administered by the Traffic Commissioners.
•  As commercial organisations are likely, in the early years, to be the main purchasers and users, the Law Commission needs to focus on the applicability of HARPS in the transport of freight.
•  There should be a statutory presumption that the registered keeper is the person who keeps the vehicle.
•  Accessibility to HARPS is critical for disabled and older people, who currently often face mobility difficulties. In order to alleviate some of the hindrance these groups face, HARPS need to be as accessible to them as possible and this should be addressed by regulations. Guidelines should be developed to support safe entry and exit from vehicles and also cover the circumstances in which support should be provided at designated points of departure and arrival. Additionally, passengers should be able to communicate with transport staff to ensure they have the help they need in the event of a problem or emergency.

The other submissions and their reasoning can be seen in our full consultation response which can be accessed here.

For further details or queries on our response, HARPS or automated vehicles in general please contact Pete Allchorne. 

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