Project status: We have published our advice to Government on remote driving
Background of the project
In 2022 the Law Commission was asked to clarify the current legal status of remote driving and consider possible reforms. The request came from the UK Government’s Centre for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles (CCAV) and the International Vehicle Standards team at the Department for Transport.
This built on the Law Commission’s work in the field of automated vehicles since 2018. Its joint report with the Scottish Law Commission published in January 2022 contains recommendations for UK government for new legislation to enable the deployment of automated vehicles on roads in Great Britain. For further information, see https://lawcom.gov.uk/project/automated-vehicles/.
Summary of the project
Technology that enables an individual to drive from outside a vehicle already exists. It is commonly used in controlled environments such as warehouses, farms and mines. Some consumer vehicles have remote control parking where the driver must be present within a short range.
This advice focuses on remote driving from beyond line-of-sight on public roads: where the remote individual may be miles away from the vehicle. There is no international consensus about whether this should be allowed, and if so, what standards should apply to it or how it should be defined.
Remote driving raises significant safety challenges including:
- Connectivity: how can a reliable connection between the remote driver and vehicle be ensured and how can safety risks be mitigated if connectivity is lost?
- Human factors: how can drivers maintain situational awareness and remain alert, reducing fatigue, motion sickness and distractions?
- Cybersecurity: how can we minimise the risk of unauthorised takeover?
On 24 June 2022, we published an Issues Paper asking for views on how to regulate remote driving on public roads. We received 41 responses. A full analysis of responses is published on this page alongside our advice to Government. Each response is also published in full.
In the advice we conclude the current law is unsatisfactory: remote driving is in a legal grey area. It is neither prohibited nor expressly allowed. This uncertainty makes it harder to put safeguards in place to ensure any remote driving is conducted safely. Conversely it can hinder innovation and worthwhile projects which could benefit society. We set out options for reform that can be implemented in the short-term using existing legal powers; and long-term reforms which would require enacting primary legislation.
- A new statutory licensing scheme for companies deploying remote drivers beyond line-of-sight. We suggest two categories: one for remote driving used as an add-on to self-driving (where the company would fall under automated vehicle licensing requirements); and another for ‘independent’ remote driving (such companies would need to get a separate licence as an ‘Entity for Remote Driving Operation (ERDO).
- Remote driving from abroad should be banned until appropriate international agreements are in place to provide appropriate enforcement.
- Victims of road traffic collisions involving remote drivers should be entitled to no-fault compensation on a similar basis to the insurance provisions for automated vehicles.
- Responsibility for maintaining safety in areas beyond the remote driver’s knowledge or control should lie with the organisation, not the individual.
- In the short-term, we concluded that the Road Vehicles (Construction and Use) Regulations 1986 should be amended to include a new prohibition. Beyond line-of-sight remote driving should only be allowed with an in-vehicle safety driver unless there is a ‘Vehicle Special Order’ (VSO) in place. The VSO would provide exemptions from, or modifications of, those construction and use regulations which developers highlighted as problematic.
We published our advice to Government regarding reform options for remote driving in February 2023. Government will decide whether to accept our conclusions.
By email to email@example.com or by phone 020 3334 0200.
Area of law
Nicholas Paines KC