Clause 3 - Power to authorise

Part of Automated Vehicles Bill [Lords] – in a Public Bill Committee am 10:30 am ar 19 Mawrth 2024.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Grahame Morris Grahame Morris Llafur, Easington 10:30, 19 Mawrth 2024

I want to make a few points in support of my Front-Bench colleague, my hon. Friend the Member for Wakefield. As he rightly said, clause 3 would enable the Government to authorise a vehicle as an automated vehicle if it met the self-driving test and if other authorisation requirements were met. That is both a safety and an insurance issue, so it is fundamental to what the Bill is intended to achieve.

I would like the Minister to note the concerns of the insurance industry, which supports increased visibility of the automated vehicle authorisation process. That should include not only a view of vehicles that have been authorised, but transparency on how authorisation requirements differ for different automated driving features, software updates and systems upgrades.

The hon. Member for Copeland mentioned some currently available features that enable remote parking, cruise control on motorways and so on. Those are driver-assist systems, not fully-automated ones, but it is perfectly conceivable that over time some could be upgraded to make vehicles fully autonomous. The legislation has to anticipate that, and it has to be transparent. That is also what the insurance industry wants.

There will also be a challenge if software updates become more prevalent—vehicles previously not certified as automated could then be deemed to be so via an over-the-air update. That would pose a significant challenge to the insurance industry because the risk profile of the vehicle could change in an instant. If that were widespread, it would add significant uncertainty to the insurance risk and the insurance book. Obviously, it is vital for the owners of vehicles to have adequate insurance cover for their own vehicles, members of the public and other road users. Furthermore, there will be different approaches to how automation is brought to the market. There will be additional concerns if automation is distributed on a subscription basis, which would make underwriting and understanding the true risk of a vehicle more challenging.

Hon. Members have mentioned the Starship robot delivery system in Milton Keynes, which is very good. However, apart from crossing the road, the robots basically operate on pavements. Again, the Bill needs to address and define that issue in terms of what is acceptable. I encourage the Government to work with the insurance industry to create an appropriate system of information sharing and to allow for increased visibility for all types of automated vehicle authorisations, to prevent insurance issues from arising.

Amendment 25, moved by my hon. Friend the Member for Wakefield, seeks to ensure that pedestrians, especially disabled people, are not negatively impacted by AVs in public spaces—such as the aforementioned delivery robots using pavements. Those types of vehicles must be authorised only when it is proven that AVs will not have a negative impact on accessibility.

To conclude, we need more visibility and scrutiny of the authorisation of AVs to ensure that insurers can do their jobs and that disabled people are not disadvantaged.