Committee (1st Day)
Clause 1: Listing of automated vehicles by the Secretary of State
1: Clause 1, page 1, line 6, at end insert “including vehicles manufactured and purchased outside Great Britain,”
My Lords, I am very pleased to see that we have, after several weeks’ delay, reached the Committee stage of this Bill. As I said in the previous debate, I welcome it. I was reminded, however, of its very narrow scope when I tried to devise some amendments which seemed to me useful and straightforward but seemed to the clerks, quite rightly, to be out of the scope of the Bill.
I understand the Government’s desire to deal with insurance as the low-hanging fruit of automated vehicles first of all. As we are told, however, that these vehicles will be on our roads in two to three years—and indeed as they are widely being trialled across the world and in parts of Britain—the Government, I fear, are going to have to run very fast to catch up on this issue given the pace of development of technology. I know that the Law Commission is looking at other aspects beyond insurance, at such matters as criminal responsibility and the wider issue of pedestrian and driver behaviour, but there is a serious danger of being overtaken by events. In moving Amendment 1, I want to concentrate our minds on the issue of vehicles manufactured and purchased or simply manufactured outside Britain and the importance of their being properly and fully reflected on the Secretary of State’s list.
The amendment’s intention is to ensure that this list is fully robust. Up to now, our insurance system has coped with imported cars simply because a car is a car. Whether a car is manufactured abroad and imported here prior to sale or manufactured and sold abroad and then imported into this country for use, either temporarily or permanently, this list has to be clear and comprehensive. How do the Government intend to ensure that the list is truly comprehensive? The world is a very big place, and we have a large number of people living in this country with links to other countries who might choose to import cars from abroad. There are also many hundreds of thousands of cars—indeed, millions—being driven on our roads that were manufactured abroad.
Amendment 2 stresses the importance of the Secretary of State’s list being aligned with definitions used in other countries—indeed, that goes for the whole Bill. The insurance industry has produced what it calls the 10 commandments, or 10 points, that a vehicle needs to adhere to in order to be considered automated. The United Nations Economic Commission for Europe, or UNECE, deals with global transport issues in relation to safety and is currently discussing international definitions of automation. I am told that the Department for Transport is taking a leading role in this.
The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders is concerned that the Secretary of State’s list should follow the internationally accepted criteria as spelt out by UNECE and should not be just a UK-specific definition. For this reason, it is keen that this legislation should use the internationally accepted levels used across the world within the industry. These standards were established by the Society of Automotive Engineers International and are apparently used everywhere across the world.
The Government intend the Bill to apply to levels 4 and 5, but, as written, it could apply to some vehicles at level 3. I want to draw attention to a recent court case in which a man was prosecuted for driving a Tesla S down the M1 near Hemel Hempstead while sitting in the passenger seat—there was no passenger in the driver’s seat. He was on autopilot. That is described by Tesla as a suite of driver assistance features including traffic-aware cruise control, which assists with acceleration and deceleration, and auto-steer. Although the reports I read did not specify it, I imagine that the vehicle also has automated emergency braking, because that is quite common in a range of cars. That is level 3, but it meets the definition in the Bill at Clause 1(1)(b), that vehicles are,
“capable, in at least some circumstances or situations, of safely driving themselves”.
Clearly, the argument here is whether that was safe, but I fear that the Government might find themselves involved in a great deal of protracted court procedure on the definition of “safe” After all, level 3 cars are certainly on our roads.
If I go into a little detail about the difference between the levels, the Committee will see how narrow that difference is and how the Government’s definition in the Bill could be misleading. In level 3, the vehicle controls all monitoring of the environment. The driver’s attention is still needed, but can disengage from safety-critical functions such as braking. Many level 3 cars currently available require no human attention to the road at lower speeds. At level 4, a vehicle tells its driver when it is safe to be automated and when not. The vehicle is capable of steering, braking, accelerating, monitoring other vehicles and the road, and responding to traffic. It can determine when to change lanes and signal but it cannot cope with traffic jams. That is sometimes referred to as the, “mind off” level. At level 5, a steering wheel is optional—there is no need for a steering wheel—no human intervention is required and you do not need brakes or pedals. It is a totally new design of car.
I have gone into that in some detail because I fear that the Government’s definition of automated vehicles as being,
“capable, in at least some circumstances or situations, of safely driving themselves”,
is oversimplified. They need instead to rely on internationally accepted definitions. The reason the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders is concerned is that the levels are so well established and widely used across the world and within the industry that even if technology advances further, as it probably will, all they will do is add a level 6. It is rather inconsistent of the Government. I understand that they want some all-embracing definition that is not subject to change, but in the second part of the Bill, for example, which relates to electric vehicles, the Government are happy to refer to “fast and rapid charging”. That is the same kind of technological term currently in use—the current jargon.
I believe, and the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders also suggests, that this could lead to a blurring of definitions. It could lead to legal challenge and the Government could spend a lot of time defining what is safe. Amendment 33, in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe, also deals with the definition of safe driving. I welcome it especially because it touches on the crucial issue of hacking: I am sure we will come back to that in later debates. I beg to move.
My Lords, I shall speak to my Amendment 33 and comment briefly on the amendment of the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson. The debate today will cover several areas, but one of them will be safety and I shall speak more about that later. My amendment covers safety, and lights particularly upon hacking. This is not a controversial Bill as I see it: virtually all the amendments are probing amendments and I hate to say it to the Minister but I think the speaking part on this occasion will be principally hers rather than mine.
Clause 7 sets out the terms for when a car is deemed to be driving itself, or in automated mode. However, it makes no mention of what happens if the vehicle is designed or manufactured faultily, or if it is hacked due to a failure by the manufacturer to install adequate software safeguards. While we all welcome the opportunities that this new technology will bring, we also have to recognise that it will bring new risks. A lot of these risks will be around the software used and therefore may be harder to pick up than in a conventional vehicle. This is a good opportunity to put in safeguards to give protection around this area now, rather than later down the line.
The amendment tightens up this area of the Bill by setting out when an automated vehicle is capable of driving itself safely. This would give the driver protection with regard to liability if it was proven that there was a manufacturer’s fault or the vehicle had been hacked. The purpose of the amendment is to get a general debate started in relation to this area, particularly on the hacking element.
My Lords, with regard to Amendment 1, the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, and I are in complete accord that the Bill is far too narrowly drafted. We have here a sizeable opportunity for the United Kingdom and one that is part of our industrial strategy, yet we are introducing a very narrow Bill for a very fast-moving technology, which will, as the noble Baroness pointed out, likely be outdated within a year or so, when we could be passing something which gives the Government a much broader remit to introduce rules and regulations to enable them to continue promoting this technology for some years to come.
I very much hope that we will manage to get agreement around the Committee that, if the Government do not table their own amendments to broaden the Bill, we will send it back to the other place with some widely agreed amendments which do that. It is enormously important that we take this opportunity because legislative opportunities are few and far between. It is unusual for this House to insist on the Government having more powers than they propose to take, but this is an occasion when we should consider that. I look forward to conversations with the Benches opposite to see if we can agree some way of doing that. I would be even more delighted if the Government were to come forward with their own proposals, but they have not yet shown any signs of doing so.
I hope that the noble Baroness will not press Amendment 2, because I think there is a large opportunity for level 3 vehicles as a replacement for trains on what are currently railway tracks. Let us imagine a large number of vehicles that will fit about eight people each running in place of trains; whether that is on the rails, which has advantages in terms of cost—both the energy cost of running a vehicle and the cost of maintaining the highway—or on a smooth surface on rubber tyres, which has advantages in terms of braking capability, meaning that you can run vehicles more closely together, seems an issue for the technicians.
If you used that space currently occupied by Southern Rail, in my case, on which the Government—because they own it—manage to run infrequent services at an average speed of 45 mph, for automated vehicles travelling at very safe intervals, perhaps two seconds apart, with individual vehicles stopping only at stations that the occupants wanted to stop at, probably travelling at 70 mph or 80 mph between stops, you would get a much better service. We would be able to get the Brighton main line back to the sorts of speeds they were used to in the 19th century; we might even be able to exceed them. For me, stuck down at the end of the Eastbourne branch, the service would be immeasurably better, both locally along the south coast and up into London. You would be able to reopen the second route from Brighton to London; the main route is frequently cut because of the age of the line and the difficulty of maintaining the tunnels—indeed, we are enduring two weeks of complete blackout this summer so that some work gets done on the tunnels.
There are all sorts of reasons why using level 3 vehicles—current technology—on the space currently occupied by Southern Rail would give everybody a much better service. You would not have to go for a scheduled train. There would be a vehicle there when you wanted to leave. There would probably be one leaving every minute. They would be faster and more reliable—because an individual vehicle, particularly if it is on rubber tyres, can just steer round your average cow which is what appears to cause the most frequent problems. You would not have these eternal delays caused by some minor obstruction on the line because that problem would no longer exist.
The advantages of this technology are known to the Government, Network Rail and other authorities. What we have all thought of as the disadvantage of being stuck with Southern Rail suddenly becomes the opportunity to have a really large network of autonomous vehicles, way ahead of anything else in the world and at a scale the rest of the world cannot match. It would provide a much better service than commuters and users get at the moment, probably at a lower cost, and a base for autonomous vehicle technology to work from in this country. I think it would prove enormously attractive to international business since it is very unlikely to be replicated elsewhere.
This is level 3 technology. You do not need anything more. You have a space where humans are not admitted. You do not need the sorts of capabilities a vehicle has to have to travel on the roads. Indeed, you might make these vehicles such that, when they got to a station, a human could take over and drive on. This technology might work. All sorts of things might work because you could try them as little add-ons to a large system. It would be much more efficient than what the Government are having to do at the moment—a whole series of minor experiments in little, confined areas, trying out different bits of technology without being able to integrate them properly. This is a really big opportunity, but it requires that we list and license level 3-capable vehicles because, even at this level, we need a proper amount of control over what is going on.
I like the amendment tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe. We will have to be really cute in making sure that the software on these vehicles is up to date. One vehicle approaching another will have to know what software the other is using and, therefore, how that vehicle will behave in case of difficulty—such as a wheel falling off—so that they become predictable. To allow random collections of software, randomly updated, is just not going to work in an autonomous world.
As the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, remarked in the course of her speech on Amendment 1, this Bill needs to be broader so that the Government can have the sort of powers they will need to regulate a fast-expanding industry, using as yet unknown technology. We need to give the Government flexibility. It is important that they have the tools necessary to make this industry succeed. I very much hope that this is something the Government will recognise in this Bill.
My Lords, I was on the Science and Technology Committee and we discussed automated vehicles. After our session, I met some industrialists—people making and selling cars—in the context of automated vehicles. One of the things it was suggested that the Secretary of State might consider—it would come under Clause 1, referred to earlier—is that people purchasing vehicles, particularly those that are partially or wholly automatic, should understand the properties of the vehicle. There were some examples this year or last year when someone had a blackout and the vehicle took over control and moved them. So it seems that already some of these level 3 properties are not well understood by the people buying the cars. For some people, as I understand it, once you have paid by credit card or hire purchase the car arrives at your front door and off you drive. Even Tesla makes you have 95 minutes of training before you buy and use one of its cars. This is an area covered by subsection (1)(b) that the Secretary of State should be considering very strongly.
My Lords, I should first make an unusual declaration of interest: namely, an investment that does not exist at this moment but which will almost certainly be made in the next few days. I will have an equity interest in the Penso group of companies and become its chairman. Penso is a manufacturer of very high-tech carbon fibre parts for the automotive, aerospace and rail industries, and produces the Vito London taxi for Mercedes in Coventry. The investment is likely to complete in the next few days, making the interest declarable as its product is very relevant to the lightweight future of electric cars. I should explain that none of my amendments seeks to confer exclusive benefits on the company and that I am moving them because I believe them all to be in the public interest.
Unfortunately, the grouping of the amendments in today’s debate is slightly unusual and many groups contain amendments that do not naturally fall together. Some of my later amendments overlap with, and propose different ways of achieving the same ends as, the amendments of the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson. I apologise if the Minister has to repeat the same points in different sections.
Although I support the noble Baroness’s Amendment 1, we may yet hear from the Bill team that Amendment 2 is just not the way in which they wish to go with this definition. I must say that I believe that that is a mistake, because, although the Society of Automotive Engineers standards may change and the Government normally like to be in complete control of the definition, the choice here is between a vague definition that could be interpreted in different ways by different lawyers and an international standard developed by the SAE and adopted worldwide. Chinese vehicle producers will adopt the SAE regulations, as will producers all over the world. There seems therefore to be a great deal of merit in sticking to the worldwide standard rather than inventing our own because we believe that our choice of English will be so elegant that we can achieve it.
There are other ways of achieving the definition from those used in the Bill, and I will come to them in my later amendments. However, were the Government to change their mind and support the noble Baroness’s Amendment 2, I would immediately support it as well.
My Lords, I support the first amendment of the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson. It is important that we keep the scope of the Bill as wide as possible. The noble Lord, Lord Borwick, mentioned manufacturing in China. I suspect that by the time many of these cars and technologies have come on to the market, a very large proportion of the equipment will come from China anyway. There has to be some world standard—I am not sure which; we will come to that later—otherwise we will be in dead trouble. I also share the noble Lord’s concern about Amendment 2.
I was interested in the comments from the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, about turning railways into roads. We heard this before, about 30 years ago.
It was not about turning railways into roads; it ends up with turning roads into railways. It is just a different method of moving people on railways.
I am grateful for the noble Lord’s explanation. It depends on whether the road is as defined in Clause 1(1)(a),
“roads or in other public places”,
on whether or not it will be a railway.
I want to point out that autonomous railways are happening at the moment. The centre section of the Thameslink railway is effectively driverless. It does not go very far—from Kings Cross St Pancras to Blackfriars—but it does not need a driver. Of course, a driver is there, but that is the state of technology on the mainline railways, and the underground railways and metros have done it for a long time. Whether the same number of passengers could be taken by these autonomous pods up a railway, road or whatever, compared with a 12-car train every two minutes with people standing is a debate we can have. But I am not sure that I would support widening this Bill to get that far.
I have also been studying a few issues related to the content of the Bill, and recently met the author Christian Wolmar who has written a book, Driverless Cars: On A Road To Nowhere. I recommend that the Minister and other speakers to read it; I am not going to give it away today. Without necessarily supporting what he says, there are issues relating to the human reaction to automation that are quite useful to study, including how close a vehicle can get to the one in front, and all the things we spoke about on Second Reading, which I shall not repeat today. It may take rather longer than some noble Lords think for all this to come about. We are certainly right to debate it now and to concentrate on common standards.
I certainly support my noble friend Lord Tunnicliffe. I think he was speaking to Amendment 8, which I did not know was in this group, but he made a good speech and I certainly support it.
My Lords, at the outset of this debate today on automated vehicles, I think it is helpful to set out what this Bill is trying to achieve. The provisions within the automated part of the Automated and Electric Vehicles Bill extend compulsory motor vehicle insurance to cover the use of automated vehicles when operating in automated mode, so that victims of an accident caused by an automated vehicle while driving itself will be covered by the compulsory insurance in place on the vehicle. The insurer would be initially liable to pay compensation to any victim, including to the driver who had legitimately handed control to the vehicle. The insurer then would have the right to recover costs from any liable parties under existing UK common law and product liability law.
The Bill therefore requires the Secretary of State to publish a list of automated vehicles which are,
“designed or adapted to be capable, in at least some circumstances or situations, of safely driving themselves”.
The purpose of this power is to allow manufacturers, owners of vehicles and insurers to know if the extension to compulsory motor insurance in this legislation applies to their vehicle. This will provide certainty to the automotive and insurance industries, as well as clarity to the public. The scope of the Bill applies to highly and fully automated vehicles only—that is, vehicles for which, when driving themselves, there is no monitoring or controlling role required of the driver.
This is broadly equivalent, as the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, said, to levels 4 and 5, as defined by the Society of Automotive Engineers—the SAE—and does not apply to vehicles with lower levels of automated technology or utilising advanced driver assistance systems, no matter how sophisticated. It does not apply to level 3 vehicles, and the Tesla vehicle the noble Baroness mentioned would not be covered. We will come to this point later, but level 3 cars still require monitoring by a driver, so they are not fully automatic and are not covered by the Bill. It also only applies to automated vehicles that are or might lawfully be used on roads or in other public places in Great Britain.
I acknowledge the point made by many noble Lords on the narrow scope of this Bill. It was designed with a specific purpose in mind, and I look forward to hearing the views of noble Lords from across the House on the amendment from my noble friend Lord Borwick introducing more powers for the Government.
Regarding the first amendment of the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, on the inclusion of vehicles manufactured and purchased outside Great Britain, there is already a long-established process, along with guidance on the GOV.UK website, which covers the permanent use of foreign-registered vehicles in the UK. As part of this process, any vehicle which drives on UK roads must already be type-approved. For temporary use of vehicles on our roads, through the Motor Insurers’ Bureau we operate a Green Card scheme—an international certificate of insurance to make sure that victims of accidents involving foreign-registered vehicles are covered. We think this process would be the same for automated vehicles and, therefore, do not think the amendment is necessary at this stage because all vehicles manufactured and/or purchased outside Great Britain will be covered by the existing text.
The Bill does not define automated vehicles by SAE levels, as proposed by the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, in Amendment 2. This is because the SAE levels are generalised industry categories describing a broad capability, which could change over time. The type approval of an automated vehicle, the criteria of which have not yet been agreed, will not be carried out according to SAE levels of automation. Noble Lords may find it helpful to note that the UNECE working parties that set the international standards by which vehicles will be type-approved and used have rejected the SAE definitions because they do not meet the level of precision needed for regulation. Instead, they simply set out broad definitions.
The categories set out by the SAE are under continual revision. A direct link to the levels creates problems if the definitions move away from what is needed for the proper functioning of the Bill. I want to be clear: we are not rejecting the SAE levels. They are helpful, but they do not—the UNECE agrees with us here—meet the level of precision needed for type approval and regulation.
Could the noble Baroness explain what she means by “manufactured in Great Britain”? She is aware of all the Brexit debates about certificates of origin, and that bits and pieces and components go right across the world and back again. What exactly do we mean by “manufactured in Great Britain”? Is it just the name on the front?
Happily, the Bill covers vehicles manufactured in Great Britain and abroad: it covers any vehicle. I am afraid I do not have an exact definition, but I imagine that it is when the majority is manufactured in the UK. As I say, the Bill will cover all vehicles, wherever they are manufactured.
On Amendment 33, I am in complete agreement with the noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe, that we must ensure that all new automated vehicles are safe and secure for use in Great Britain. We have many amendments to come on that. We are working at the United Nations level to develop international requirements for vehicle manufacturers on both vehicle safety and cybersecurity. These standards, which are still being developed, will then form the basis of the type approval process which automated vehicles, like conventional vehicles today, must pass before they can be sold for safe use on British roads or in other public places, or get on to the Secretary of State’s list for insurance.
Based on the international UNECE standards, which the UK is actively contributing to, and our evolving domestic regulatory programme, we expect it to be very clear which vehicles, including their software, can safely operate in automated mode. We do not think it appropriate at this early stage to set too precise criteria.
You are still not explaining how people will understand and be informed of this. Is there no regulation for that? As I understand it, even manufacturers are conscious of this being uncontrolled. When you buy such a car, you do not know what kind of information you will have and how you are going to be taught about it. As I mentioned, British cars are being provided with little information, unlike the Tesla car. Even for that complicated car they apparently need an hour and a half or whatever it is for training. Is anything being done about that?
As the noble Lord rightly says, for level 3 partially automated cars there is a training system in place before the vehicle is used. For levels 4 and 5 that is something we are working on. We have not seen these vehicles yet, but I agree it will be essential to ensure that people who use these vehicles are able to use them safely. That is part of what we will be looking at, as we put together the regulations.
We think that we need to maintain flexibility to ensure that all the vehicles relevant to Clause 1 can be identified and included in the list, so that we can give insurers the clarity over which vehicles require insurance.
On hacking, we are working with the UK security agencies, including the Centre for the Protection of National Infrastructure, and the new National Cyber Security Centre, to engage directly with industry, raising awareness and promoting best practice. Cybersecurity, including for automated vehicles, has been identified as a top priority in the national security strategy. Of course, it is essential that all parties involved in the manufacturing supply chain, from designers and engineers to retailers and executives, are provided with a consistent set of guidelines that support the industry. As part of this work, we developed, consulted with industry, and published in August last year the Principles of Cyber Security for Connected and Automated Vehicles, a guidance document for the automotive industry on good cybersecurity. Those principles are now informing the work that we do at UNECE level on the taskforce on cybersecurity, which is developing standards, practices, directives, and regulations concerning cybersecurity and their applicability to the automotive industry. We have also set up an automotive information exchange to promote sharing of intelligence and best practice for effective cybersecurity.
I very much agree with the intention of the amendment, but we think that both the safety and cybersecurity requirements of automated vehicles will be covered in future regulations, once agreed at this international level. I hope that, given those arguments, the noble Baroness feels able to withdraw her amendment.
The Minister made a very important statement at the beginning, so I want to make sure that I heard it correctly. I think that she said that the responsibility of the Secretary of State would be to list the vehicles that could safely be driven automatically or would safely drive themselves automatically on the roads. Does that mean that the Secretary of State will effectively be certificating these vehicles as being safe?
The vehicles will be certified through the type approval process, following what has been agreed at international levels. That is what will decide whether or not those vehicles are safe. Once that type of approval process has happened, those vehicles will then go on the Secretary of State’s list, which is purely for insurance purposes, so that insurance companies and purchasers of vehicles can understand whether those vehicles require automated vehicle insurance. So it will be a separate process to the list on exactly how those vehicles are certified, which is what is subject to ongoing conversations at international level. We do not yet have those standards, but we are working towards getting them, which will certify whether a vehicle is safe. Given that, I hope that the noble Baroness feels able to withdraw her amendment at this stage.
What is the timetable for this to be done?
I am afraid that we do not have a specific timetable. Obviously, technology is developing all the time, and we do not yet have the technology available for type 4 and type 5 vehicles. We are working closely, as I say, at United Nations level, and are also working as part of that with both vehicle and software manufacturers to be able to define those standards. Given that we do not yet have the technology, we are not yet able to define the standards, so I am afraid that it will slightly depend on how things progress. However, we play a leading role in this and, as soon as these international standards are set, we will then be able to use them for our type approval for standards within the UK and declare it legal and safe for those vehicles to be driven in the UK.
I thank noble Lords and the Minister for her comments, and particularly thank the noble Lord, Lord Borwick, for his support on the need for a more precise definition.
In response to the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, I clarify that I have specified levels 4 and 5 because that is what the Government have said that the Bill applies to. If the Government want it to apply to level 3 as well, that is fine. The principle is the need for a clearer definition; the use of levels rather than the definition is what I am suggesting.
The noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, asked how long it would take to get used to automated vehicles. If you drive a minibus, it comes as a bit of a shock to find that you are sort of on top of the car in front of you, in comparison with driving a car, when you expect to have a bonnet in front of you. We are getting used to new ways of driving. As I have mentioned before to noble Lords, I have an electric car, and that is a totally different style of driving. We will get used to it more quickly than perhaps some people think.
The Minister said that at level 3 a car still requires monitoring by the driver. But it also does at level 4 in some driving situations. You can go from cruising nicely down a motorway to being in a traffic jam, where a level 4 car would need to be monitored. You could quickly go from one situation to another. The Government need to go away and think about the definition they have supplied us with and check it out, stress-testing it in a number of situations.
The Minister said that the levels may change. The motor industry assures me that the levels will not change. The cars will change and technology will advance, but the levels reflect those levels of advance. The Minister also said that UNECE has rejected these levels. What has it said? Does the Bill precisely mirror its definitions? If it has now reached a conclusion to its discussions—they must be fairly recent, because that was not the information I was given last week—it must have produced precise definitions, and we need to shadow that.
I assume that other countries are also tackling this through similar legislation. What definitions are they using? To go back to Amendment 1, in the Secretary of State’s list we need to use the same definitions otherwise a car could be considered automated in Australia and non-automated in Britain. That goes back to my original point that we all have all known that a car is a car is a car, but in future we may be arguing about whether an automated car is an automated car.
My Lords, can I argue against crisp definitions? We do not yet know what will happen. Maybe we can evolve a system where the ordinary car we use at home can switch into fully automated mode for, say, travelling around the railways, and then when it is not part of a railway, it will come off. Sometimes it is a car and at other times it is a rail vehicle. If we are to take a lead in this industry, we will need to continuously shape and reshape definitions. We do not want to be hamstrung by what we can think of now. I agree that we ought to share definitions around the world, but they ought to be based on technology as it evolves. It ought to be fast moving. We ought to equip ourselves with legislation which can move as the industry moves.
The noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, asked me whether there would be capacity constraints. No, there would not be; if you transfer to rubber wheels, you can manage much higher traffic densities because you do not have the braking distance problems, and you can fit with the current level of autonomous safety. I am not saying that one could manage high-speed lines, but Southern rail is all low-speed. The fast services on the London to Brighton line manage 45 miles per hour. If, with autonomous vehicles, you are managing to go 70 or 80 miles per hour, just by doing that you are doubling the capacity. Therefore there are no capacity constraints on using these routes for autonomous vehicles. It will probably be managed by Network Rail because you need the consistency, predictability and safety constraints that go with rail services. However, we are talking about much smaller vehicles and different technology—about providing a basis for the whole of autonomous vehicle technology to evolve. Under those circumstances, you have to move definitions to keep up with the technology.
Level 3, as I read the definition, seems to provide a pretty good base: there are times when the vehicle can be autonomous but then it gets to a point where it says: “Hang on, I can’t be autonomous here, I need the driver to take back control”. That seems to be the sort of technology you might well try to put on a rail service so that, without having to get to levels 4 and 5, you can provide room for individual vehicles to travel on the service and provide the connections that people want beyond a railway station. We do not know yet; we have not got there. We have to allow the Government the breadth of definition that will allow us to experiment and to lead the field.
The noble Lord talks about looking at the future and says we have not got there. With all due respect, we have got there. I have been in a driverless car—technologically, they exist. They are being trialled in parts of this country and indeed across the world. However, the noble Lord is right that we are crystal ball gazing over exactly how they will be used. In what circumstances will we use them? Will we all own our own little pod or will we summon up a pod to collect us and take us to work, or whatever, whenever we wish it? There is a great deal of debate here; undoubtedly the initiative has already been taken by taxi companies, for example, in this area.
However, I return briefly to Amendment 1 and the points made about definitions. I am not slavishly devoted to levels 3, 4 and 5—or 4 and 5. If the Minister says this has been rejected, that is contrary to what I was told, but I am happy to go with what has now been accepted. The definition needs to be precise enough for this not to end up in a lot of court cases. I say that because the whole of this part of the Bill is about insurance; we all know that insurance is always mired in legal definitions, so the Government need to be on firm ground. Having said all that, I am happy to withdraw my amendment.
Amendment 1 withdrawn.
Amendment 2 not moved.
3: Clause 1, page 1, line 8, leave out “or adapted”
My Lords, removing the two words “or adapted” would mean that the Secretary of State’s list would not include vehicles manufactured for conventional driving and adapted for autonomous mode. Those involved in the motor industry regard the concept of adapting vehicles as extremely dangerous. The technology companies—the people who write and design the software for cars—also regard it as very dangerous. The point they make is that their software is specifically tailored to individual car design. The fact that their technology works safely in one car does not mean that it can be shoe-horned into another model, even a similar model.
The clause as written would include individual adaptations by enthusiasts, which would be a very uncertain path to go down. Indeed, if a car manufacturer decided to adapt a current level 3 model—for example, the Tesla S, to which I referred earlier—to a level 4 car, I am absolutely sure that Tesla, in line with standard motor industry practice, would call it the “Tesla S Elite” or something similar. It would be a different model and therefore it would not be an adaptation in the meaning set out in relation to the Secretary of State’s list. What I am really pointing out here is that the concept of “adapted” vehicles would narrowly include those adapted on a one-off basis by individual enthusiasts, and therefore it would not seem reasonable to expect the Secretary of State and the Department for Transport to have the expertise to know whether that was safe.
I want to refer briefly to Amendment 29, which is in this group and stands in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe. A big section of it is very similar to the amendment tabled by Labour in the Commons to the Vehicle Technology and Aviation Bill. I congratulate the noble Lord on having managed to get this amendment accepted. I could not think of a way of doing it, but he has done very well.
Amendment 29 addresses crucial issues associated with the proper repair and maintenance of automated vehicles. In particular, it goes into detail on the need to establish properly accredited training schemes for those who repair and maintain them. Rather like the repair of electric vehicles, the process is totally different from traditional vehicle repair. I spoke at Second Reading about the need for a process similar to the old CORGI gas safety scheme. That was a highly respected, universally acknowledged scheme and came about as a result of the Government working with the industry. We need the Government to work with industry in the same way on automated vehicles, and I am very grateful that the noble Lord has raised it in his amendment. I beg to move.
My Lords, I shall speak to Amendment 29 in my name. I accept the noble Baroness’s congratulations on behalf of my staff—which is one quarter of a very able lady—who managed to get this past the Public Bill Office. The proposed new clause would protect insurers against accidents caused by vehicles repaired by unauthorised technicians. It would also require the Government to establish a scheme for the authorised inspection, repair and maintenance of automated vehicles by licensed and accredited technicians.
The automotive industry already relies on hundreds of thousands of individuals who support work on and maintain vehicles. As the technology develops, so too must the skills of those working on them. We are already aware of an existing skills gap in the industry. As the technology develops, that gap may well worsen but, as it stands, the Bill does not address a worsening skills gap. If we do not start planning for this now, we will be left with a huge hole in the support structures for these new vehicles.
I am of the generation where I was privileged at the age of 17 to buy a car for seven pounds and 10 shillings. The car was seven years older than me. It tended to go only about 10 miles before having to have its plugs cleaned and so on—which made courting my wife a bit difficult at times. But we were of a generation when the skill of looking after automotive technology was very straightforward, and widely understood by a large section of the population. Now I drive a Prius, and I would not dare touch anything on it. Not only is it unduly complex, but it could be very dangerous, with the very high voltages involved and so on. There is nothing I could do to that car that would do anything other than worsen its performance.
That has happened in two or three generations. We have gone from a relatively straightforward skill widely shared among the population, from which the industry, almost like cottage industries, could draw, to vehicles which, when they are on the road, will be very specialised and require very specialised skills. Noticing the noble and gallant Lord over there, I would say that those vehicles will be more akin to modern military aviation than to the sort of basic engineering that cars used to represent.
We believe, as do a number of stakeholders, that the Government should introduce an accreditation scheme for technicians to work on future vehicles. If they are not proactive, the UK will not be able to support growth in these new technologies. So will the Minister look at bringing in such a scheme, not only to address the skill shortage but as a wider set of protections for insurers against unauthorised repair and maintenance of such vehicles, as set out in the new clause?
My Lords, I support Amendment 29 in the name of my noble friend Lord Tunnicliffe. He is right about the need for such an authorised inspection regime, and in his worry about unauthorised repairs. The Committee may or may not be aware that a lot of trucks, and probably many modern trains and other big pieces of plant and equipment, are already remotely monitored. Where I live in Cornwall, outside the front door of the house is a 200-tonne gantry crane that operates on rubber tyres. It was manufactured in Italy and erected in Cornwall, and if the driver does the wrong thing, or the wrong person drives it, the people in Italy know exactly what is happening and they will stop it: they will prevent it from operating. If it tries to lift 300 tonnes when it is capable of lifting only 250 tonnes it will be stopped, so that the equipment does not get severely damaged. That is very common, so my noble friend’s amendment is absolutely right. I hope that the Minister will see the need for some kind of scheme to cover at least the specialist equipment that will be in the vehicles.
I worry about Amendment 3 and the suggestion by the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, about the word “adapted”. She said that adapting a vehicle would probably be done in a back yard somewhere, by somebody who probably would not know what they were doing, and could therefore be dangerous. That is certainly a worry. But the word “adapted” would also cover current vehicles adapted for people with certain disabilities—for example, if someone cannot use a brake pedal so there has to be a brake behind the steering wheel. I know we are talking about a different technology, but the word “adapted” will be difficult. I suggest to the noble Baroness that, if Amendment 29 were accepted, all vehicles, whether specialist, adapted or not, would have to be covered by the authorised “inspection, repair or maintenance”, so it would be better to go down that route rather than inserting the word “adapted”, as she suggests in Amendment 3.
My Lords, I too have some difficulty with the word “adapted”. I understand that modern technology is more difficult to handle than when the noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe, and I were pulling our Austin 7, or whatever it was, apart. Nevertheless, you cannot totally slam the door on any form of cottage or other industry which was set up in order to help individuals to produce an adaptation of a particular vehicle. I do not support this amendment in the way in which it is drafted.
My Lords, I too have some difficulty with this because I drive, I must confess, a Skoda. I am told that a brand new Skoda is built to my specifications when I order it, not before. It is not produced on a line but only when I order it and, therefore, each adaptation is my instruction to the manufacturer. Whether or not that is an adaptation I do not know, but we have to bear it in mind when considering this amendment.
My Lords, while I respect the opinions of the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, the way that the automotive industry works is through a large number of companies of various sizes, some of which believe they have the only solution that makes a positive change to the industry. They may approach a big car company and try to persuade it that their creation of a level 4 vehicle software is better than that produced by Ford or General Motors. I do not think they will succeed, but they will want to try it out—and that process will involve adapting an existing vehicle. That would be much harder than it is at the present stage if the amendment suggested by the noble Baroness were accepted.
It is a reality of life that the world is filled with brilliant engineers who have their own suggestions. Some of them are nutters and some of them are geniuses, and it is only by trying out their suggestions that you can work out which one is which.
The noble Lord will remember that, when we were considering this issue in the Science and Technology Committee, it was suggested that one of the first uses of a fully automated vehicle would be in agriculture, with it going up and down a field. A story was told of a van suddenly appearing at the back of a field and the farmer going up to two men and asking, “What are you doing here?”. They said, “We are from Germany, and we are here because the big end on your combine harvester is about to go”.
The point is well made. It is an immensely complicated industry and, effectively, prohibiting adaptions would send it backwards.
On the issue of maintenance of these vehicles, there is a host of health and safety regulations which should cover many of the points raised. It is indeed extraordinarily dangerous to start dealing with high-voltage DC cables on the inside if you are not trained to do so. However, because of my interest in electrical vehicles in the past, I have gone through the training, the basic lesson of which is to stay as far away from it as you possibly can. It is extraordinarily dangerous, and I entirely support the training of people as proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe.
My Lords, if we imagine a future with a lot of autonomous vehicles around, one of the things that such a vehicle needs to do is predict how other autonomous vehicles will react in particular circumstances—that is, if faced with a sudden unexpected obstacle, the priority will be to veer to the left, say. That knowledge can come only on the basis of a shared understanding of the software that each of them has and of the capabilities in terms of awareness of the local picture and the wider picture that are built into the vehicle. To allow those things to be tampered with by back-street garages and amateur electricians seems to me to go against the whole advantage of moving towards autonomy. Therefore I very much support what the noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe, is aiming at. I think we need really clear control of the quality of maintenance.
I can see what the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, is aiming at in removing “or adapted”; we do not allow people to adapt Boeing 747s in a random sort of way. They might do it to trial things and have a bit of their own airspace to wander around in while they are doing it, but we should be really cautious in allowing widespread adaptation. Every adaptation introduces another complication that every other autonomous vehicle would have to be aware of. Adaptation should be confined to test areas and test tracks, and what appears on the public scene should be a well-understood, well-documented vehicle—and not too many different kinds, please.
My Lords, I will first address Amendment 3, tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, regarding the removal of “or adapted” from Clause 1(1). It may be that in the future vehicles could be adapted to be capable of driving themselves safely. It could also be the case that some future vehicles are designed to be ready for full automation at some point after their sale but not yet fully capable.
I do understand the concern around this, as we have not yet seen such vehicles in the marketplace, but, given that we cannot predict how these vehicles will evolve, it is important to ensure that we do not prematurely preclude such technology—or, as the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Craig of Radley, put it, slam the door on potential innovation. Happily, it would not be up to the Secretary of State or, indeed, the Department for Transport, to decide whether an adapted vehicle was safe. Whether it was a vehicle adapted by an enthusiast in their back yard, or with a software update from Tesla, it would be subject to the same type of approval process before it could be legally used on our roads. So I can reassure noble Lords that a vehicle with any such adaptation would be on the Clause 1 list—and therefore have insurance, and be on our roads legally—only if the adaptation was considered safe.
On Amendment 29, the noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe, is of course absolutely right to be concerned that automated vehicles meet appropriate safety standards and that the inspection, repair and maintenance of an automated vehicle is done in an authorised way. Motorists with these new vehicles will clearly expect the same level of knowledge and customer service they have come to expect for conventional vehicles. However, we believe that at this stage it is too early to develop a full training, licensing, and accreditation scheme for automated vehicles, or to legislate on how automated vehicles are inspected, maintained and repaired.
As I have said, the Bill is focused on ensuring a sensible insurance regime, and we do not believe that it is the right time to legislate further on maintenance in the manner outlined by the noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe, given that the UNECE harmonised technical safety standards have not yet been agreed for these vehicles. As I said in debate on previous groups, these conversations around safety standards are ongoing, with the UK actively participating in these important discussions.
Might the noble Baroness meet us half way by giving us an assurance that at an appropriate time such a scheme will be developed?
I am happy to give the noble Lord that assurance. I think that, in order for the UK to remain a leader in the development and deployment of AV technology, we will of course need the right skills. If we are to secure an automated future we will need them in ongoing repair and maintenance as well as in design and technology.
We are working with the relevant technology and professional bodies on this issue, alongside the DVSA. We are also working with the Automotive Council on improving skills in the sector by developing new trailblazer apprenticeships and targeting areas where there are skills shortages, as well as co-ordinating work across the sectors. As the professional body for the automotive industry, the Institute of the Motor Industry is well placed to help the Government understand the challenges of ensuring that automated vehicle maintenance and repair is carried out in a professional and safe manner. We hold regular meetings with the IMI, at both official and ministerial level, to discuss the potential models of regulation that we will need for AV skills testing.
As I said, I understand noble Lords’ concern in this area. As the technology develops and matures we will consider such an accreditation scheme and what, if any, government intervention would be needed to ensure that we have enough skills to make sure that the industry can develop. We fully expect there to be other pieces of regulatory and legislative reform in due course as part of our wider programme.
While I can reassure noble Lords that the work on training and accreditation is progressing well, I am afraid—I feel I will be saying this a lot today—that, as the Bill concerns an insurance framework, we do not feel it is an appropriate place to include such an amendment. But I hope that the reassurances I have given on the work that is ongoing in this area, and that in due course we will be looking to implement such a scheme, will allow the noble Baroness to withdraw her amendment.
My Lords, I accept that my Amendment 3 is a very simple and straightforward device. It was an attempt to approach one aspect of the safety issue. Amendment 29 is a much more complex and comprehensive approach. If Amendment 29 or something like it were adopted, there would be no need for Amendment 3.
I was trying to begin to talk about safety and to raise the issue that if you allow adaptations, the Secretary of State will have to devise a way to apply a wide and rigorous range of safety tests. Currently, if you build your own car in a garage you can test it pretty straightforwardly and take it on the road. You could be stopped by a policeman and you could take it to a garage and it would or would not get its MoT on a series of straightforward yes or no tests with no doubt about it. But, if we are talking about adaptations to autonomous vehicles, the danger in these adaptations will almost certainly be in the software, which it is very much more difficult to test. We have only to look back at the Volkswagen scandal. Volkswagen installed the so-called defeat device in the software of its diesel cars that kicked in only when it detected that it was being tested. It was therefore able to mask the true extent of emissions. That is a very complex operation. To test software we would have to go through very lengthy, all-situations style testing to make sure that a vehicle is truly safe. It is not just a case of putting your foot on the brake and saying that it stops quite quickly and it is fine.
Would the noble Baroness be tempted to press the Minister to have a meeting on these issues before Report and come back with a much shorter text than Amendment 29 with the intention of covering these issues? I think that would give many noble Lords who have spoken in the debate quite a lot of comfort.
The noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, puts forward a very good idea. I know that the Minister is always very generous in providing opportunities to discuss issues. We already have two issues that we need further information on. I am sure that there will be other amendments later where we will need a meeting or, at the very least, a fairly lengthy letter—but it would be better to discuss it.
I readily acknowledge that the approach taken by the noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe, is a more thorough approach to the issue of safety. With that, I beg leave to withdraw my amendment.
Amendment 3 withdrawn.
4: Clause 1, page 1, line 9, leave out “, in at least some circumstances or situations,”
My Lords, we have here a portmanteau group of about three different subjects which have in common that they are all proposed by me, but that is about it. I will start with Amendments 4, 5, 6 and 7. These address the alternative to using the SAE definitions that the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, and I think are probably the right solution to the problem.
The first amendment deals with the phrase,
“in at least some circumstances or situations”.
As has been mentioned, the Science and Technology Committee did a very good study on autonomous vehicles, let down, in my mind, only by the fact that we were not allowed to entitle it “Goodbye, Mr Toad”. This was supported by a large number of people because the phrase encapsulates one of the greatest advantages of autonomous vehicles: bypassing bad driving. In the future automated vehicles will drive better than human beings.
“in at least some circumstances or situations”,
will certainly open discussions as to whether some downright unusual vehicles such as agricultural autonomous vehicles will fall under that description. I fear that in the Secretary of State’s opinion, they will not, and somebody will undertake a judicial review as to whether the Secretary of State was right. The net result will be wealthier lawyers rather than a clear definition.
Similarly, the meaning of the word “safely” is very unclear. One man’s “safely” is another man’s “dangerously”. Putting such ambiguous words into legislation opens up the possibility of somebody’s saying, “That autonomous vehicle was involved in an accident; it therefore cannot have been driving safely. If it was not driving safely, it should not have been on the list, and is therefore not covered by the insurance that it was thought to be covered by”. I hesitate to say that putting in the word “safely” is dangerous, but it opens the possibility of a bunch of litigation which is unnecessary because the clause works without it.
I know that the word “safely” is part of the Government’s attempt to differentiate between what we would call level 3 and levels 4 and 5. It comes from the Government’s determination not to use those terms. If the Government were to change their mind on that, the need for subjective words such as “safely” would disappear.
Amendments 31, 32 and 34 deal with the meanings in Clause 7 of “being controlled” and “driving itself”. The Bill states that,
“a vehicle is ‘driving itself’ if it is operating in a mode in which it is not being controlled, and does not need to be monitored, by an individual”.
There is a lot of uncertainty as to what phrases such as “be monitored” mean. Amendment 34 tries to identify that more clearly. On Amendment 32, there is again some uncertainty as to what “an individual” means. Does it mean an individual who is licensed to drive that vehicle? Does it mean an individual who is capable of driving, with a driving licence, or one who is not drunk or fast asleep? There is a lot of uncertainty in these words. The Minister may say that the wording will be sorted out in the detailed regulations, but it could be changed to deal with such problems at the start.
On Amendment 35, “roads” has not been defined in the Bill and could easily be defined to tie up with the Road Traffic Act 1988 so that a creative lawyer does not come up with an alternative definition for their own benefit. I hope that all the amendments are helpful in clarifying the meaning of these phrases. I beg to move.
My Lords, I went through the process of devising amendments with a lean approach to the wording. Once again, the amendments take a more comprehensive approach to the same issue I raised regarding the definitions. I understand the point made earlier by the noble Lord, Lord Borwick, about there being some overlap in the grouping of amendments. That is because this is a highly technical Bill and the aim of the amendments is not always obvious. In this case, the aim is clearly the same as the one I was approaching, and it underlines the point I made when speaking to my first group of amendments: that definitions will be central.
Many years ago, I was a justice of the peace. I sat through many motoring cases at a basic level in the magistrates’ court where clever lawyers spent ages examining the definitions of simple words. There were many cases where people avoided apparently obvious judicial process because of a definition. The Government need to look again at the definitions used in the Bill.
My Lords, we should welcome these attempts to clarify the wording of the Bill, but I suspect that it is a more or less hopeless task to agree on it. I am surprised that the noble Lord, Lord Borwick, did not want to change,
“does not need to be monitored”,
because that is a subjective question. For example, if you are in a taxi, are you happy if no driver is there? If you are flying in a plane, it will be on autopilot most of the time, but are you happy if there is no pilot there who can take over and is monitoring? The question whether one feels the need to have someone there monitoring is ambiguous. To say that there is no need for someone to be monitoring is going to be very subjective. For that reason, I suspect it will be a very long time before level 4 or level 5 automation will be perfectly acceptable.
Another complication concerns the word “individual”. If driverless cars are to be able to cope with driving on ordinary roads, such as country roads where things are changing all the time, then in order that they should not use a computer more powerful than their engine, they are going to have to communicate with other driverless cars and build up enough data and information in that way: they are not individuals, they are communicating with a cluster of other cars. I make these points because they are technically relevant and indicate the subjectivity of trying to decide whether there is a need for monitoring.
My Lords, I want to speak briefly to Amendment 35. Having a definition of “road”, as suggested by the noble Lord, Lord Borwick, is essential. I know there are lots of different definitions of roads within the various road traffic Acts, but I happened to come across a case a few years ago where somebody who was driving a 4x4 on a road which did not appear to be a road within the definition of the road traffic Acts was arrested and charged with drink-driving. He was convicted in the end and it is quite clear, which I did not understand before, that that offence can occur anywhere—in a field, a factory, or anywhere else—because it is not particularly a road traffic offence: it is being drunk in charge of a vehicle. I do not know whether that will be reflected when we get to who is in charge of these vehicles, but it demonstrates the importance of having a definition of “road” where such legislation will apply.
My Lords, I think there is a difficulty with what my noble friend’s Amendment 4 proposes. There is no reason to suppose that we will not have vehicles that are dual-capable—capable of being driven by people and driven autonomously—maybe as part of the evolution to a fully autonomous system. I do not suspect that a farmer will want their Land Rover to be autonomous for a long time in the future, except when it is on a roadway and switching between two modes may become quite important. Therefore, a vehicle that is capable of switching between the two modes, and is therefore not always autonomous, will be an important part of the evolution to autonomous vehicles.
I also suspect that once a vehicle is autonomous, it will not ever be truly not in someone’s charge. If you have a set of vehicles which are essentially public vehicles—small buses, which are just picked up on the street and you take one to wherever you are going—some kind of alarm system will be necessary. There will probably be some oversight in case of a known problem: you will want to say, “Right, all vehicles within a particular radius shall slow down or stop because there appears to be some problem developing here”. Defining who is in charge of a vehicle where those capabilities exist will be quite problematic. This comes back to my wanting the Government to give themselves the flexibility to adapt the regulations as circumstances change, our knowledge improves and systems move.
The picture the Government paint of a Bill every year is just not feasible: government does not work that way. This sort of backwater gets a Bill every four years if we are lucky. We absolutely have to reckon that this Bill has to last the rest of this Parliament and probably the first year or two of the next. There is not the space in a Government’s life for off-centre Bills on a regular basis. The Bill is underpowered for the mission it sets out to achieve.
My Lords, as I mentioned in the debate on the first group of amendments, the scope of the Bill applies only to highly and fully automated vehicles; that is, vehicles for which, when driving themselves, there is no monitoring or controlling role required of the driver. I appreciate my noble friend’s efforts to clarify the language in the Bill in this series of amendments. I will try to help with the definitions, although, as the noble Lord, Lord Rees, said, these terms are highly subjective.
On Amendment 4, it is anticipated that the first automated vehicles to reach the UK market will be able to be used in automated mode only in specific circumstances or situations. These could include instances where vehicles have been geo-fenced, and are therefore able to operate only in specific, defined areas, or systems that would operate only on motorways and other high-speed roads, or indeed in the way my noble friend Lord Lucas described earlier. These vehicles may not be capable of driving safely in all situations, so we believe it is essential that the wording,
“in … some circumstances or situations”,
remains within the Bill so that such vehicles can get on the Secretary of State’s list and get insurance.
The Minister keeps talking about “vehicles” and not “cars”. Vehicles are already being used in agriculture. They do have to go on roads, however; for example, to go from one field to another. Is that part of the definition?
I know that this issue came up in the noble Lord’s committee. It is something we are looking at. Again, we will probably equate it to the existing situation with agricultural machinery: only if it needs to be lawfully insured at the moment will it need to be lawfully insured as an automated vehicle.
On Amendment 5 and the proposal to remove “safely” and Amendment 34 to define “monitoring”, as my noble friend said, the Bill uses “safely” to distinguish between vehicles with high or full automation, which are covered by the Bill, and conditionally automated vehicles, which are not. Conditionally automated vehicles need the human user to monitor their driving at all times. Highly and fully automated vehicles do not need such monitoring in automated mode: they can operate safely without it.
That is why we think we need “safely” in the definition in Clause 1 that highly and fully automated vehicles are,
“capable, in at least some circumstances or situations, of safely driving themselves”.
The definition of “driving itself”, given in Clause 7, is,
“in a mode in which it is not being controlled, and does not need to be monitored, by an individual”.
So the Bill covers vehicles that have been designed to be able to drive themselves—safely, with no monitoring needed, in at least some situations. Without “safely”, we think that the Bill would cover—incorrectly—vehicles in which the driving tasks are shared conditionally. However, I have listened to the arguments made in this and earlier debates and will look at the definition in the Bill and see if there is anything we can to do clarify it further.
On Amendment 6, it is certainly our intention that only vehicles that are considered safe at the time at which the list is made or updated are included. I will consider the arguments made today and see whether we can make a clarification here.
On my noble friend’s Amendments 7, 31 and 32 regarding control, we think there are risks in using more specific terms at this stage, given that we cannot predict how the technology will evolve. I ask noble Lords to take account of this point throughout today’s debate. It is important to utilise broad language at this stage. We have used general terms to reflect the policy intent in establishing the compulsory insurance framework. As the scope of the Bill applies to vehicles for which, when driving themselves, there is no monitoring or controlling role required of the driver, we do not feel that we need to further define “control” at this stage.
On the subject of roads, my noble friend Lord Borwick raised an interesting point in Amendment 35 —he was backed up by the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley—regarding the definition of “road” in the context of Section 192 of the Road Traffic Act. I think we can clarify this further to make it explicit in the Bill. I will look at tabling an amendment on that ahead of Report.
I have attempted to clarify the definitions here, but following the points made in this and earlier debates, I will look at the definition in Clause 1 to ensure it is clear that only vehicles that can be lawfully used in self-driving mode will be included in the list.
In response to the point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, in the previous debate, I will follow up this session with a detailed letter, as well as a meeting ahead of Report to discuss the issues further. Given these reassurances, I hope that my noble friend feels able to withdraw his amendment.
My Lords, I thank my noble friend the Minister for her comments. Clearly, a lot of conversations should take place between now and Report, and they should include a wide variety of Peers who have expressed an interest in the Bill. I look forward to those discussions. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment 4 withdrawn.
Amendments 5 to 7 not moved.
8: Clause 1, page 1, line 10, at end insert—
“(1A) The Secretary of State must consult on and publish the criteria that they will use to determine whether, in their opinion, a motor vehicle is designed or adapted to be capable, in at least some circumstances or situations, of safely driving itself without having to be monitored by an individual.(1B) The Secretary of State may not change the criteria under subsection (1A) until they have consulted vehicle manufacturers, insurers and other such persons as the Secretary of State considers appropriate.”
My Lords, before moving Amendment 8, I would like to reflect on the comment made by the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, that this backwater of transport gets a Bill only every two or three years. I think the Minister and I are locked in our fourth transport Bill in as many months. If you extrapolate from that, we will be here for ever.
Amendment 8 improves the Bill because it requires the Government to consult on and publish criteria for the definition of “automated vehicles” that will be used by the Secretary of State. The current drafting of Clause 1 puts the onus on the Secretary of State to define, in his or her opinion, what constitutes an automated vehicle without having to consult the sector. The Bill will be vastly improved if there is a requirement to consult and publish the criteria by which an automated vehicle is defined. It would also prevent the Secretary of State changing the criteria without consulting vehicle manufacturers, insurers and other such persons as the Secretary of State considers appropriate.
It is crucial for manufacturers, vehicle owners and insurers to know whether they are making, buying, loaning on or insuring an automated vehicle, and whether the scope of the legislation applies to their vehicle. There are concerns that the Bill, as currently drafted, leaves the Secretary of State with total discretion as to what is an automated vehicle. The amendment therefore provides greater clarity and will help the Government by ensuring that relevant persons and organisations would be sufficiently involved, allowing that to inform the Secretary of State’s list of automated vehicles. The additional clarity provided by the amendment would help create a more reassuring environment which encourages the development and uptake of automated vehicles.
I will just touch on the whole area of safety. I have spent a life in safety-critical environments. The first thing that does is give one an aversion to the word “safe” because it is used in a binary sense: things are either safe or unsafe. In practice, nothing is absolutely safe. In my experience, most regimes are developed by one of two routes. One is the “crash and regulate” route, which has served aviation quite well. Hundreds of aeroplanes crashed in the early days, and we have now got to a situation where regulation refined by those experiences has produced the safest aviation environment in history. The motor industry has also essentially been a “crash and regulate” environment. Crashes have occurred, other incidents have occurred, regulations have been developed and safety has generally improved decade on decade. But in other areas the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 criteria have been used; that is, pursuing the objective of reducing risk to as low as is reasonably practical. That is a much more philosophical approach.
I hope that in developing these criteria the department, in its participation in international discussions, looks at both approaches, particularly the philosophical, proportional approach. When we move into this automated phase, it will be like the beginning of motoring all over again. We will be in an entirely different environment. For decades, we have relied on eyes and ears to be our interface senses; in this situation, we will be trusting a whole new series of senses, and the possibility of multiple interface failures has to be very high. I hope the department will take this seriously and actively develop its skills in looking at this whole safety environment so that we can play an important role in getting the right regulatory regime for automated vehicles. I beg to move.
My Lords, I shall speak to Amendment 10. This amendment follows on nicely from Amendment 29 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe. We had a useful discussion on that. The noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe, made an excellent case for why we need a properly organised maintenance regime. My noble friend the Minister agreed and said that we would commit to legislate in due course. Why do we not legislate now? When we legislate for something such as a maintenance regime in a fast-moving area—as this will continue to be—we give the Government powers to create one under regulations. We do not specify it or try to pin it down with a lot of detail, because it is too fast-moving an area, too new and too unknown.
The only way we can ever legislate for something such as an Amendment 29 regime is by giving the Government the ability to create regulations. I do not see any reason why we cannot do that now. When the Government get to the point where they consider a maintenance regime is needed, there could be other primary legislation in the queue. It may take a year or two to get a slot, a year to get the Bill through Parliament, and then there is the whole process of producing and consulting on the draft regulations. It may take the Government two or three years to get to the point where they have a maintenance regime in place. If we give them the power in this Bill to create a maintenance regime if and when they think it is needed, the whole process will be much shorter.
This is an industry where we ought to be caring enough about the economy and the future of this country to be giving the Government a lot of flexibility in what they do. If we get to the point of autonomous vehicles being on our roads, we can anticipate that we will need to say something about their ability to deal with level crossings. I do not think that we would ever try to deal with that sort of thing in primary legislation. If we are going to give the Government that sort of power in secondary legislation, why not do it now?
It is absolutely clear that we are going to have to deal extensively with the way in which data is handled and shared. Again, whenever we choose to legislate, it will be in a fast-moving, fast-changing, unpredictable set of circumstances. We will give the Government reasonably broad powers to keep updating the regulations without primary legislation being required at each turn. I believe that we can frame those regulations now.
We are going to have to produce regulations that restrict the ability of autonomous vehicles to drive in particular ways in particular circumstances. Those will keep changing as the capabilities of autonomous vehicles improve, as our experience of them improves, and as the way in which we as a society choose to deal with them improves. We are never going to try to deal with that sort of thing through primary legislation. Let us make this a fast-moving, adaptable Government, in a crucial area for the economy, by giving them the power now. We know that we want up-to-date software. We have already covered that today. Let us give the Government the ability to make sure that that is the case.
We know that we have to provide for human/autonomous changeover. It is unclear what that will look like. It will continue to change and adapt as technology moves. Let us give the Government the power now to deal with those things. When we look at our practice in this House, we know that we are not going to pin the Government down with primary legislation. We know that we are going to give them a sensible set of powers to create secondary legislation. There is nothing we need to know more than we do now in order to draft the required legislation. I hope that the Government will take these powers voluntarily—but, if not, I think we should be prepared to insist that they have them. The Government will then be much more responsive to the needs of the economy in terms of pushing this forward and putting ourselves into a position where international companies choose to do part of their autonomous vehicle development here because the environment is right and adaptable.
I understand—and one can judge from the admirable brevity of the Minister’s replies—that this is not in current contemplation by the department. That is why we may need to insist on an amendment or two. In conversations between Committee and Report, I hope that we may be able to agree what such an amendment might look like. We must put ourselves in a position where we are seen internationally not as an environment where change is slow and difficult because it requires primary legislation but rather as one which is quick and adaptable because we have already made the necessary provisions.
My Lords, I am speaking to my Amendment 11 is in this group—a probing amendment, again on the subject of safety. I noticed that the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee considered a Department for Transport memorandum which stated that,
“the Secretary of State will need to have regard to whether vehicles or types of vehicles have met international or domestic standards on the safe functioning of automated vehicles that will need to be met before the vehicles can lawfully be used on the roads”.
It went on to say about safety requirements that they were,
“likely to be recorded in a vehicle’s registration document”,
“could therefore be identified either by type … or by reference to information in the registration document”.
Does that not overlook other essential safety requirements, such as the one I mention in my amendment—an MoT of the vehicle after so many years since new? Will the addition of greater and greater computer control and software mean that the current three years since new and yearly MoT thereafter will still be sufficient?
My amendment, and the much more comprehensive considerations mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, and by other noble Lords about safety requirements, suggest that, for a vehicle that is included on an approved list, there will be additional safeguards to consider before it can be legally insured for on-road use. I instanced an MoT as just one example of a safety issue that may have to be considered for the vehicle to be listed. Alternatively, can the Minister confirm whether existing or additional safety regulations may be required and are to be introduced in parallel with the Bill before a fully automated vehicle is insured for on-road use?
It is perhaps worth mentioning at this point that some test of competence might be required of the owner-occupant of a driverless vehicle. How might this bear on the issue of insurance cover for the individual in or in charge of the vehicle? I noted that a recent report, which the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, mentioned, suggested that, even if the vehicle is travelling under automated lane control, for example, as is possible today, the driver’s seat has to be occupied and the occupant is responsible for retaining ultimate control of the vehicle, maybe without even briefly letting go of the steering wheel. From the Minister’s opening remarks, though, I now understand that this level of vehicle automation is not to be covered by the Bill. How then are the insurance arrangements for these types of vehicle to be taken care of—or are they already taken care of by existing legislation?
The departmental memorandum that I mentioned says that the Secretary of State’s decision is administrative in nature and so could be open to judicial review. In respect of introducing new technology, this could be a troublesome legal minefield, as the noble Lord, Lord Borwick, has already mentioned. So I should be grateful to hear from the Minister about her department’s thinking on these safety issues.
My Lords, I support Amendments 8 and 10 and the associated Amendment 22. I feel that I need to declare my interest as I am an employed member of the Environmental Defense Fund Europe, an advocacy group that promotes solutions to climate change and air quality.
While I am speaking to this part of the Bill, it is fair to say that my interest lies in Part 2, but I feel that the Bill ought to be seen in its entirety as a tool that the Government can use to reach their aspirations to see a huge transformation in the transport sector. We are anticipating and looking forward to the publication of the government strategy, Road to Zero. We hope it is a road to zero, not a road to nowhere; I hope it contains ambition. We hope the narrow parts of the Bill are stepping stones and that additional policies and consultation will be launched with the document, which we hope we will see before Report.
Amendment 8 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe, covers a very important aspect. I hope and suspect that the Minister will be able to reassure us that the consultation will indeed be forthcoming in the documents that we expect from the department. It is really important that we have that debate about how we are helping the Secretary of State to ensure that he or she is drawing on the very best information available, as this is quite a complex and technical area. There must be wide consultation on definitions in order for this list to be relevant and useful for every part of the community, including the insurers but also the users of the cars.
On Amendment 10 and the associated Amendment 22, many of us have been playing a game with the clerks in order to enable us to have a debate that is broader than the clauses before us. The short title of the Bill appears very wide but when it comes to it we are allowed only a very narrowed-down debate. I have put my name to Amendment 10 just to be able to talk about standards for autonomous vehicles. I understand that the nature of our debate, because it is linked to insurance, means that it has been mainly about the fear of accidents and safety, but there is an important additional element to autonomous vehicles, which is their environmental value. If we do not consider this at the outset then there is a chance that, no matter how well meaning we are in encouraging the use of autonomous vehicles and transport as a service more generally, we could see a period when these vehicles are overlapping with existing vehicles and we see more congestion, higher quality impacts and indeed greater impact on climate change.
I have a question for the Minister. Clause 1 of the Bill says:
“The list may identify vehicles … in some other way”.
When considering the list, could we interpret that as meaning we will have additional information about the environmental impact of these vehicles? There is an assumption that autonomous vehicles will be cleaner—and indeed that they will be electric, which would speak to both parts of the Bill—but there is no requirement or necessity for that to be the case. In the setting of and consulting on standards for these vehicles, could we include from the outset environmental standards that mean we do not have unintended consequences? Through our efforts to boost this industry, see inward investment and create jobs and financial flows, we do not want inadvertently to encourage lots of highly polluting vehicles using as many cheating devices as software engineers could come up with, in delivering the service through autonomous vehicles. We saw this in our drive to try to increase the efficiency of vehicles that has led to a big push to diesel.
That is why I support the amendment. As I say, I ask the Minister to give us some words of reassurance that more is to come. As the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, has mentioned, this is a slightly underpowered Bill for the task that it is undertaking. I doubt that this is the last time we shall come to this topic—I hope it is not—but legislative time is limited, so if the Government were able to broaden the scope in the time remaining in this House, I would certainly support that and I know many other noble Lords would too. I look forward to maybe discussing with the Government what is possible in the time remaining.
I will stop my comments there. I apologise that I cannot stay until the end of the debate this evening, but I will be here for the second day of Committee.
My Lords, I have been surprised by the Bill and the discussions on it because it is fairly unusual to find circumstances where there is the kind of debate that will happen on the next set of amendments about “must” and “may” regarding what the Government can do. Normally the Government suggest that the wording should be that they “may” do something while Back-Benchers push for it to be that they “must” do something. Here we have entirely the reverse of that problem. Similarly, when my noble friend Lord Lucas proposes that the Government should have the right to regulate on safety standards—I have a similar amendment coming much later—normally it is a matter of the Government wanting to have the powers to regulate and the Back-Benchers suggesting that they should not. Here again we have the reverse of that standard, but this is a new industry and perhaps we have new ways of legislating for it.
The points that my noble friend Lord Lucas and the noble Baroness, Lady Worthington, make are entirely right: we need standards. However, I think so many things are happening with this that the power to make regulations should be wider than just in respect of standards. That is why I have tabled Amendment 30, which will be dealt with towards the end of our debate today. I support my noble friend’s amendment as far as it goes. I think my amendment is slightly better than his but we can deal with that problem later.
My Lords, I fully appreciate that we will see fast-moving technological developments in this area in future. With that in mind, I understand the intent behind noble Lords’ amendments on safety criteria and standards. It is going to be critical to ensure that automated vehicles are safe for effective deployment on UK roads. As the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Craig, rightly points out, their safety will also need to be maintained throughout the vehicle’s lifespan, as is the case for conventional vehicles today.
There is a long-established process in place for setting vehicle standards, which we have touched on before. The UNECE’s World Forum for Harmonization of Vehicle Regulations is tasked with creating a uniform system of regulations for vehicle design in order to deliver high levels of vehicle safety and environmental protection and facilitate international trade. These UN regulations, of which there are over 140 in number, contain the provisions for vehicles, their systems, their parts, their equipment related to safety and environmental aspects. So they provide the legal framework, allowing member countries such as the UK to establish harmonised international-level UNECE regulatory instruments concerning motor vehicles and motor vehicle equipment. They include performance-oriented test requirements as well as the administrative procedures. The latter address the type approval of vehicle systems, parts and equipment, the conformity of production and the mutual recognition of the type approvals granted by member countries.
The standards by which automated vehicles will be approved safe for sale and use are still being discussed internationally at this UNECE working group, where the UK plays a leading role. We expect them to follow the way in which conventional vehicles have been judged safe to use. I will certainly look carefully at the words of the noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe, to help inform our approach in those negotiations. We work with bodies such as the International Organization of Motor Vehicle Manufacturers, which participates in these discussions in a consultative capacity. We think that this is likely to form the basis of the type approval process which automated vehicles, like conventional vehicles today, must pass to be sold for safe use on UK roads.
Based on international standards and our evolving domestic regulatory programme, we expect it to be very clear which vehicles, including their software, can safely operate. The vehicles approved as safe by type approval will then go on to the list, so that our domestic insurance framework is clear which vehicles need which insurance products. The Clause 1 list of automated vehicles will not be the mechanism by which automated vehicles are regulated in relation to safety and security. That will be governed by future laws and technical standards, which we expect to be developed with the appropriate level of scrutiny and consultation, just as current road traffic laws and vehicle standards are developed.
On the important point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe, about consultation, these changes to domestic legislation, including road traffic laws and vehicle requirements, will generally undergo public consultation and have impact assessments carried out. They are subject to parliamentary scrutiny when amending legislation is laid in the House. Throughout the development of our policy in this area, we have consulted closely with industry. Given the understandable interest in this new area, we fully expect there to be full consultation when we see the regulations appear for automated vehicles. So I agree with the intention of the noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe, to consult on the standards that will be set for automated vehicles. That is something that we plan to do, but I am again afraid that I cannot agree that this Bill, which relates to insurance provision only, is the right place for it.
I fully expect that future regulations for automated vehicles will cover many of the points in Amendment 10, including environmental issues, but we think that legislating in any way further in the absence of the more detailed knowledge of the ultimate international design standards, risks us regulating ineffectively, potentially creating barriers to the use of this technology in the UK and therefore impeding innovation.
As the new technologies reach the point of market readiness, we will be able to set and define the standards, both internationally at a UNECE level and, depending on the outcome of the international discussions, domestically as part of our ongoing regulatory programme. As I have said, we fully expect this to be subject to full consultation.
I wanted to ask the Minister whether she thought there was value. I understand that there will be lots of ongoing discussion, but there may be value in taking some enabling powers now so that we can move forward quickly. This is quite a competition among many nations, and it would be a great shame if we were to lose this parliamentary opportunity to take some enabling powers now.
I agree with the noble Baroness that this is a fast-moving industry, and we absolutely want to position ourselves at the front of it. As my noble friend pointed out, I am in an unusual situation of being offered powers to Government. This is a narrow Bill, which I acknowledged at the beginning. We have been trying to ask only for powers which we know how we will use in the future. We have an amendment from my noble friend coming up on that, and it has been interesting to hear people’s views. At the moment, the Bill is focused entirely on insurance, but I will be interested to hear views from everybody around the House ahead of Report.
In Amendment 11, the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Craig, is right to be concerned that vehicles must meet the appropriate safety standards, both before they are sold and to ensure their ongoing roadworthiness. They are important issues that will require attention from the Government, and we certainly expect safety throughout the vehicle’s life to form the basis of future regulation. We do not yet know, because of the technology, the timescale to expect for regular vehicle checks. As the standards have not yet been set, I am afraid that we are unable to introduce those detailed regulations at this time and in this Bill.
On that point, the Minister says that the Government cannot introduce regulations at this time. Will it be primary legislation to do that, or does existing legislation give them the opportunity to produce regulations as and when required?
Under the construction UNECE regulations, which are how we deal with conventional vehicles, we are able to introduce regulations, which is a potential future for automated vehicles. We have asked the Law Commission to do a far-reaching review on our regulatory framework for automated vehicles. That is designed to promote the safe development and use of automated vehicles, identify areas in the law that may be barriers to the use of automated vehicles, and propose potential solutions. One of those barriers was that we did not have an insurance framework, and those vehicles could not be insured. That is the purpose of the Bill. We are working with the Law Commission to understand where we need to make further primary or secondary legislation. As and when appropriate, the Government will come forward with legislative and regulatory proposals, and will absolutely consult on the detail.
I turn to the role of the insurer and my noble friend Lord Lucas’s Amendment 22. It is the policy intent of the Bill that it mirrors existing processes as closely as possible without making complex legislative changes to the existing framework. A vehicle is insured if there is in force, in relation to the use of the vehicle on a road or other public place in Great Britain, a policy of insurance that satisfies the conditions in Section 145 of the Road Traffic Act 1988. It is the contractual obligation of the insured person to provide accurate information to the insurer. Failure to do so may result in the policy being voided.
I understand that there is concern that we are proposing an insurance framework before we have agreed the safety standards, and before we are sure how we will regulate for those, but as I said, the Bill is designed to enable insurers to begin developing new insurance products, in response to a request from the insurance industry. We want those insurance products to be developed now so that it will encourage further investment and research in automated vehicles in the country—something I am sure noble Lords are in favour of.
I hope that these words have assured noble Lords that there will be comprehensive safety standards, which will be informed by consultation, to ensure that only automated vehicles that can be used safely will be placed on the list. Again, I am afraid, as the Bill is solely considering a list in relation to the insurance framework and not these safety standards at this stage, I hope the noble Lord feels able to withdraw his amendment.
My Lords, before the noble Lord deals with his amendment, may I say that I am sad that I was right that the Government are determined to keep the Bill within its current scope? They are missing considerable opportunities in regard to my noble friend’s description of what the Bill would do: enable the insurance industry to develop new products, and enable us in this aspect to be ahead of the game and part of the international conversation. She talks about the advantage of legislating now, but the Government will not legislate now in other areas where they could simply and where I think the House would be inclined to give them quite wide powers to get on in this area. I am disappointed that the Government are taking this action. If I find opportunities beyond today to do something about it, I look forward to taking them.
I thank all noble Lords who have taken part in this debate. I shall study the Minister’s response with great care, and I look forward to possible contacts between now and Report, and will decide whether to table further amendments then. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw my amendment.
Amendment 8 withdrawn.
9: Clause 1, page 1, line 17, leave out “must” and insert “may”
My Lords, as I mentioned a moment ago, in tabling these amendments, I felt that the legislation imposes an unnecessary and potentially damaging duty on the Secretary of State that he or she “must” produce a list. Governments hate being told that they must do something. It is normally a case of taxpayers “must” do something, but rarely Governments.
It seems ironic that Back-Benchers are offering amendments to say the Government “may” do something, but the Government themselves are insisting that they must. What if, through some administrative or IT failure, the Secretary of State did not produce a new list every time there was a single addition? I am assured by the Bill team that the mechanics of this list are such that there will be automatic updates with subsequent publication, and that the DVLA will act on behalf of the Secretary of State to ensure that it is not the imposition I suggest it might be. However, I still believe it important to note that, if lists are produced, they should include the vehicle registration. This is why I propose a detailed new clause in Amendment 12.
Insurance companies need to be able to check, against the list, whether an insurance application is for an autonomous vehicle. This insurance is likely to be cheaper than for normal vehicles, so fraudulent applications need to be easily identified and caught. While I can concede that a list must be maintained, I would suggest that a discretionary power—the use of the word “may” in my amendment—will allow the Secretary of State to take steps to impose fines upon manufacturers and other producers of autonomous vehicle kit that do not register vehicles appropriately under Clause 1. I believe that the Government need to be told by manufacturers that they have produced a new autonomous vehicle, and that is why I have suggested Amendment 12.
The advantage of Amendment 9 changing “must” to “may” is that it gives the Government the opportunity to be flexible that my noble friend suggested earlier that they needed. “Must” is a red rag to a lawyer; it suggests that, because the Government have not done something, there is some liability knocking around that they can attach a claim to. I am therefore worried about this requirement that the Secretary of State “must” produce a list and that it “must” include this or that. It would be much better for the Government just to take the power and decide in the future to what extent they want to produce this list. I beg to move.
My Lords, I entirely agree with the noble Lord, Lord Borwick, about “must” and “may”. It is interesting that the Government like to put “must” on its own. I am sure the Minister will have a view on that.
I have a short comment on Amendment 12, which is in this group. I support it. The Minister may say it is too early but, if you are going to have a written notice under proposed new subsection (2), surely the documentation, certificates or anything relating to not only the vehicle but the software, control system and everything else should be included.
My Lords, I am sorry to disappoint my noble friend on further regulatory powers in the Bill. As I said, I would be interested to hear views from noble Lords from across the House on further regulatory powers later but, at this stage, we are just not ready to make further regulation. That is why we have not asked for the powers.
The purpose of the list in Clause 1 is to allow manufacturers, owners of vehicles and insurers to know if the extension of the compulsory motor insurance in this legislation applies to their vehicle. The aim is to provide certainty to the automotive and insurance industries, as well as clarity to the public. As I have said, the list itself is not a mechanism to approve which vehicles are safe to use. This will be determined by future regulation, most likely based on international standards. The list in Clause 1 is simply to inform the insurance industry which vehicles require automated vehicle insurance.
My noble friend Lord Borwick’s Amendment 9, which replaces “must” with “may”, would imply that preparing, updating or publishing this list might be at the Secretary of State’s discretion. We believe it is right that the Bill imposes a duty on the Secretary of State, who “must” ensure that the list, comprising any vehicle that may lawfully be used when driving itself on roads or other public places in Great Britain, is published and kept up to date. If the list is not updated, people may obtain the wrong type of insurance, leading to difficulties for victims in securing compensation quickly and easily. As I said, this aims to provide certainty.
In order for the Bill to deliver the insurance framework that it is intended to—this is after consultation with the insurance industry—it is important to maintain the list as a duty on the Secretary of State. Perhaps this is something we can discuss further before Report.
Amendment 12 concerns the duty of a manufacturer to notify the Secretary of State. I understand my noble friend’s intention but, at this stage, it is not appropriate to legislate in this regard. There are already existing processes in place when registering a vehicle or notifying changes regarding a status of the vehicle, and we are working with the DVLA on how to replicate these processes for automated vehicles. We have yet to complete that work, so we do not feel it is the right time to legislate in this regard. I hope that, given this explanation, my noble friend is able to withdraw his amendment.
My Lords, I beg leave to withdraw that amendment.
Amendment 9 withdrawn.
Clause 1 agreed.
Amendments 10 to 12 not moved.
Clause 2: Liability of insurers etc where accident caused by automated vehicle
13: Clause 2, page 1, line 22, leave out paragraphs (a) and (b) and insert—
“(a) damage is caused by an automated vehicle when driving itself,(b) the vehicle that caused the damage is insured at the time of the accident, and”
My Lords, we have reached halfway through the list before us today. This is a discussion about the difference between accidents and damage. I feel that, sometimes, the legislation as drafted moves fluently between the words “accident” and “damage”. I fear that that is open to misinterpretation, as an opportunity, by lawyers in the future.
It is critical that “caused” be defined in this Bill. A lack of a test of cause of an accident or damage to a person or vehicle will lead to years on end of appeals in cases. The Bill therefore has the opportunity to provide for a measure against a reasonable standard. The focus should be on what or who caused the damage, rather than the accident causing the damage. By doing this, the Bill could be a world leader in clarifying such a test, as has never been done before. We must accept that the public are nervous about this new technology, and the Bill should clarify what happens before, during and after an accident. It will clearly demonstrate that we have the citizen at the forefront of our minds.
The problem of leaving “caused” undefined is that, in so many processes, the Ministry of Justice is trying to reduce the amount of litigation. As has been mentioned by the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, the magistrates’ courts are filled with motoring cases of liability for damage caused by somebody’s unreasonable behaviour. If we are careful with the drafting, we could help reduce that litigation in future. Therefore, I beg to move these amendments.
My Lords, I wish to speak to my Amendment 17. I am grateful for the support of the noble Lord, Lord Borwick, on this. The key issue is what sort of standards we can expect from automated vehicles. We are told, as has already been said, to expect far higher standards and few accidents. The estimate is an 80% reduction in the number of road traffic accidents once automated vehicles are fully established. After all, we know as humans that even very good drivers sometimes have a bad day, and we are not all very good drivers, but automated vehicles should always be on the ball. However, undoubtedly there will still be accidents, especially during the lengthy transition period, when some cars have drivers and others do not. There are even worrying tales of some pedestrians, in areas where automated vehicles are being trialled, playing chicken by testing how close you get to the cars by stepping out in front of them, to see how quickly they will stop.
Legal advice we have received indicates that under the Bill as drafted, the insurer would be liable when an accident happens, even if damage is not caused or the damage caused is not the fault of the automated vehicle. My Amendment 17 would lower the standard by which the automated vehicle is judged to that of a reasonable driver. This, of course, removes the double standard the Bill would create—that an automatic vehicle is always safer than a manually driven car. It would therefore lower the burden on insurers.
I am not entirely sure about the term “reasonable” driver; I wondered whether “competent” might be a better word, but I was assured that “reasonable” is an accepted legal term and would be understood. I have tabled this simply as a probing amendment because we need clarity from the Government. After all, millions of insurance policies will rely on this Bill and the structure it creates. The Government have written the Bill expressly to prepare the insurance market for AVs, so it is vital that we have clarity on how the Government view the system they plan to create.
The amendments proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Borwick, in this group, replace “accident” with “damage”. This is an issue of technical legal terms, on which I would welcome clarification as well. I am very pleased to see that he has tabled his amendments.
I should perhaps earlier have declared my interest as chairman of the advisory board for the Gateway autonomous vehicle in Greenwich project, which has done a lot of work on the subject that the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, mentioned—the habit of pedestrians testing autonomous vehicles. They found that in time, that habit reduces, not because the relevant pedestrians are squashed by the autonomous vehicle but because they get bored with the test. They might try it once, as a teenager, but they do not bother to try it again: it is a boring process. Boring a teenager is not something we should use as the basis of a safety standard, but it is a powerful factor in this matter. I very much support the amendments in the names of the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, and myself.
My Lords, my noble friend’s Amendments 13, 14, 15,16, 18 and 24 seek to clarify the definitions of “damage” and “accident”, terms which are already in common use in road traffic legislation and case law. It may help if I set out how we have intended the provisions in this Bill to work. They are intended to mirror the existing conventional vehicle compulsory third-party insurance framework, found in the Road Traffic Act 1988, for automated vehicles. However, the Bill’s read-across with the Road Traffic Act has to be adjusted at times to allow for the lack of a driver when an automated vehicle operates in automated mode, which means that the Bill makes use of the word “accident” as a way of introducing the word “damage”, which in turn is defined in the Bill in a way that mirrors the meaning of “damage” in the Road Traffic Act 1988. Again, as I said, the aim of the Bill is to provide consistency with conventional vehicles in the 1988 Act.
“Damage” is defined within Clause 2 as,
“death or personal injury, and any damage to property other than … the automated vehicle … goods carried for hire or reward in or on that vehicle or in or on any trailer (whether or not coupled) drawn by it, or … property in the custody, or under the control, of … the insured person … or … the person in charge of the automated vehicle at the time of the accident”.
As I highlighted earlier, the policy intent of the Bill is that it mirror existing processes as closely as possible without making complex legislative changes to the existing framework. I appreciate the challenge from my noble friend in testing the Bill’s wording, but we believe that the task of mirroring the existing processes in the 1988 Act is best done by the wording as it currently stands.
On Amendment 17, the process of determining and apportioning liability in the event of an incident will remain the same as now, with the courts ultimately making judgments based on the facts. That will include taking account of evidence as to whether the human driver or the automated vehicle system was in control at the time of the accident, and related issues. I recognise that this is a new area, but our courts have a long history of making complex judgments in the determination and apportionment of liability, including following the introduction of new and emerging technologies. For this reason, we believe they are best placed to make judgments in that area, but of course, it is an incredibly complex one. As part of the Government’s wider continuing regulatory programme for automated vehicles, it may become necessary to legislate further when we know more about the technology, and it could be that the Law Commission makes recommendations in that regard.
We absolutely do not want to add to the concern of the legal system and want to make sure that the Bill is as clear as possible, given that many of thousands of insurance policies will be based on this framework, as the noble Baroness said. We believe that the language as it stands is the best way to replicate the conventional vehicle in the Road Traffic Act. I hope I have helped to clarify the situation but, again, this may be an issue to discuss further ahead of Report—the exact definitions and how we use them in this Bill. Based on that, I hope that my noble friend feels able to withdraw his amendment.
I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment 13 withdrawn.
Amendments 14 to 18 not moved.
Clause 2 agreed.
Clause 3: Contributory negligence etc
19: Clause 3, page 3, line 3, after “begin” insert “or continue”
My Lords, Amendment 19 addresses the problem at the back-end of subsection (2), where it says,
“allowing the vehicle to begin driving itself when it was not appropriate to do so”.
The problem may be that it might have been right for the vehicle to start off on a nice sunny day in London, and it then drives to Scotland, where it is snowing, and it is no longer appropriate. However, it was appropriate at the start of the journey, and it would certainly be right for the driver to allow the vehicle to begin driving itself at that time—but not right for him to allow it continue to drive. That would be a simple change in the wording, which I have put in Amendment 19.
In Amendment 20, I address the question of what “not appropriate” means, when we could use the phrase “avoidable and unreasonable”, which I think is much more in keeping with legal custom than the word “appropriate”, because it can be argued as to what it means. Those are my two amendments in this group, and I leave to the noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe, Amendment 21. I beg to move.
My Lords, I will speak to my Amendment 21 in this group. The Bill as currently drafted means that the insurer or owner of an automated vehicle is not liable where the event was caused by a person allowing the vehicle to drive itself where it was not appropriate to do so. However, it does not define when it is or is not appropriate to do so. This amendment requires the Government to provide regulatory guidance for when it is and is not appropriate for a person to allow an automated vehicle to drive itself.
It would clearly not be appropriate in some circumstances for vehicles to drive themselves: for example, early automated vehicles might be deemed safe to use only on motorways and not on some urban roads. Another example would be that a software issue might arise so that using the automated function at that point would be inappropriate. Clause 3(2) is not clear enough in its intentions. Does it even apply to fully automated vehicles or bimodal vehicles? We need more clarity on this.
One of the primary purposes of Part 1 is to provide a framework to give insurers, manufacturers and potential users greater clarity, providing confidence and encouraging progress on automated vehicles. However, it is still not clear from the Bill what the Government have in mind about when their use would be appropriate. We are asking for regulations to be brought forward to better define those circumstances, because we cannot afford to have confusion here. People must be clear about where their obligations lie. If we are to see the growth in the industry we all wish for, we do not want to leave this issue hanging over it.
My Lords, I will make what I hope is a helpful suggestion to my noble friend in connection with Amendment 21. The most appropriate authority to make these regulations would be the Office of Rail and Road. It is responsible for safety on the railway; it should be responsible for road safety, but we have not got there yet. Maybe the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, would support me on that one. However, I hope that is a helpful suggestion.
My Lords, given Network Rail’s safety record over the last 10 years, I would absolutely support that recommendation.
My Lords, as we deal with a set of amendments dealing with handover, it is perhaps appropriate to give my noble friend a break, and I move over from the passenger seat. However, I assure the Committee that my noble friend remains in control.
The transferring of control of an automated vehicle between a human driver and the automated vehicle’s system will be an important factor in ascertaining how a vehicle safely and appropriately operates on UK roads. Straightaway I reassure the noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe, who spoke to his Amendment 21, that of course we recognise the need to put in place a proper regulatory framework to ensure both the safe deployment and safe use of automated vehicles—I will say a bit more about that in a moment.
It is likely that the first automated vehicles to reach the market will be able to be used in automated mode only in specific circumstances or situations, with vehicles capable of full automation arriving further into the future. My noble friend Lady Sugg said a little more about that when we debated Amendment 4. For example, she said that these circumstances could refer to vehicles that have been geo-fenced—able to operate only in a very specific, defined area—or to systems that would operate only on motorways and other high-speed roads. It is likely that these vehicles will be designed to allow handover only in these very specific circumstances: for example, from the driver to the vehicle when the vehicle enters that geo-fenced area, and from the vehicle to the driver when it leaves, in a safe manner and when appropriate to do so.
It is anticipated that the relevant international regulations at UNECE level will reflect these limited use cases and handover process. It is possible that these regulations will contain requirements for the vehicle to be able to detect where it is so that the system cannot be used in other situations. These standards and regulations will be likely to form the basis of the type approval process which automated vehicles, like conventional vehicles today, must pass to be sold for safe use on UK roads or in other public places. They would then be covered by Clause 1.
At the moment, the powers we have are sufficient. We can use existing powers in the Road Traffic Act 1988 to revise existing, or create new, road vehicle construction and use regulations to transpose or reinforce new iterations of the global regulations as they appear. However—I repeat what we have said before during this debate—global regulations for automated vehicles have not yet been decided, and so it is not clear what changes in our domestic framework would be needed at the present time. It would be premature to ask for primary powers in a Bill that is just about automated vehicle insurance without more detailed knowledge of the ultimate design standards to which these vehicles will be held, or without knowing the outcome of the Law Commission review of the existing legal framework —which, again, my noble friend mentioned.
As regards handover of the driving to an automated vehicle, my noble friend Lord Borwick has proposed a different test from that in the Bill: that the handover must not be “avoidable and unreasonable”. These two words would be applied conjunctively by the courts, and the result would be that a person could be found to be negligent only provided both “avoidability” and “unreasonableness” were both shown to be present. The Bill’s test makes for a lower threshold on the insurer by placing a stricter burden on the driver not to hand over in situations when it would be inappropriate to do so. While the technological and wider regulatory framework here is still very new and developing, it would be prudent to set a strict standard and relax it if appropriate once more is known. Therefore, in the Government’s view, the original text of the Bill should stand.
To insert “or continue” into Clause 3, as proposed in Amendment 19, would in effect legislate for the possibility of the user having some residual role in the driving task after the handover to self-driving mode is completed. When a vehicle leaves a geo-fenced area or comes off the motorway, it is anticipated that there will be a safe handover back to the driver, and the details of this will be covered by international safety standards. However, my noble friend’s amendment does not fit with the Bill’s definition of an automated vehicle, because this requires no monitoring while the vehicle is driving itself. I hope this explanation reassures him that his amendment is not necessary.
While, as I have already said, I am sympathetic to the intent of the noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe, in Amendment 21, we think that we do not need these powers, as the definition of when it is appropriate for the vehicle to drive itself will be covered elsewhere in regulations. I hope that, given that assurance, the noble Lord will feel able not to press his amendment.
Can the Minister expand on where else in regulations these powers will be available?
I think I said when I was speaking to the amendments that at the moment the powers we have are sufficient. We can use existing powers in the Road Traffic Act 1988 to revise existing, or create new, road vehicle construction and use regulations to transpose or reinforce new iterations of the global regulations as they appear. However, as has been the case with other regulations we have debated, on safety and other issues the Government will bring forward the appropriate legislative framework in due course if we do not already have powers under existing primary legislation.
My Lords, the Minister has mentioned the Law Commission report several times. Can he give any timetable for when the Law Commission will report on various issues? I am not just thinking about this one. One report on railway level crossings was completed about five years ago. I know that you are supposed to wait two years after a report has been produced before it is introduced into legislation. However, if one waits three, four or five years, the report’s conclusions may get out of date. I remember threatening the last coalition Government with putting the whole Law Commission report on level crossings down as amendments to a suitable Bill—it would have been about 50 pages long, but that was not the problem—in order to get the coalition Government to do something. My impression is that, because of all the Brexit legislation, everything has come to a grinding halt. I am not necessarily suggesting that the Minister will be able to answer my detailed question, but if he or a colleague could write to me on that, I think it would be a useful subject for discussion later.
I understand that the Law Commission work on the issue that we are debating now is a three-year programme. I am not sighted on the level crossing review, but either I shall write to the noble Lord or, perhaps later on, during one of our debates, we can update the exact timescale of the Law Commission review of the existing legal framework for automated vehicles. Obviously, automated control is not in operation.
I thank my noble friend the Minister for his comments. I think it would be useful between this stage and Report to talk more about the nature of “continue”. There will still be a duty, either on the vehicle to monitor itself, or on the passenger to monitor it; that person will be aware of conditions changing, and there will undoubtedly be differences as a result of a snowstorm occurring. I think the drafting could use some improvement—I am not sure mine is exactly the right phrasing—but I look forward to discussing it with my noble friend. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment 19 withdrawn.
Amendments 20 and 21 not moved.
Clause 3 agreed.
House resumed. Committee to begin again not before 8.02 pm.