In his first speech as monarch to Parliament this week, King Charles announced plans for new legislation for automated vehicles.

According to a briefing document from Downing Street, the Automated Vehicles Bill will “unlock a transport revolution” and “cement” the UK’s position as a “global leader” in the industry.

It is one of 21 bills that the government says will be a priority over the next year.

The introduction of self-driving cars will reduce costs, injuries, and fatalities, it is claimed.

It will also, the UK Government believes, boost productivity and empower people.

Between 2018 and 2022, the UK self-driving vehicle sector generated £475 million of direct investment and 1,500 new jobs.

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It is expected that the self-driving sector could bring significant economic impacts, including a market value or around £41.7 billion in 2025, in addition to jobs in the sector reaching 87,000 by 2035.

What’s included in the bill?

  • A “rigorous” safety framework: The Department of Transport and its agencies will be given new powers to authorise self-driving vehicles. Companies will be held accountable once AVs are on the road, and will face new sanctions and penalties, including fines and criminal offenses in serious cases.
  • Clear legal liability: A company rather than an individual will be responsible for the way an AV drives. Users will be protected from being unfairly held accountable, i.e., given immunity from prosecution when an AV is driving itself. However, users will still be expected to maintain non-driving responsibilities, such as ensuring an AV has appropriate insurance. If a person is driving the vehicle during a journey, they must still take responsibility.
  • A clampdown on misleading marketing: Only vehicles that meet the safety threshold can be marketed as self-driving. For all other vehicles, the driver is responsible at all times.

In September 2022, the Government announced the £66 million Commercialising Connected and Automated Mobility fund.

This supported 20 projects in approximately 50 organisations to enable a safe and secure self-driving vehicle rollout. It also helped develop prototype passenger and logistics services.