Clause 60 - The role of inspector

Part of Automated Vehicles Bill [Lords] – in a Public Bill Committee am 2:15 pm ar 19 Mawrth 2024.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Anthony Browne Anthony Browne Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport) 2:15, 19 Mawrth 2024

I will mention the role of the investigators before commenting on the amendment. Clause 60 introduces the concept of investigation of incidents by statutory inspectors, which will allow for the creation of independent capability to investigate incidents involving authorised automated vehicles. The clause requires the Secretary of State to appoint at least one person to be an inspector of automated vehicle incidents. Clause 61 then states that the role of those inspectors is

“identifying, improving understanding of, and reducing the risks of harm arising from the use of” self-driving vehicles in Great Britain.

Like the existing UK transport investigation branches for air and maritime, the inspectors will conduct safety investigations into incidents involving at least one authorised self-driving vehicle. It will not be their role to apportion blame or liability; instead, they will draw on all the available evidence to publish reports and recommendations that ultimately improve the safety of self-driving vehicles, in line with recommendation 32 of the Law Commission’s report. I stress that their role is analogous to those in other sectors such as air and maritime.

That brings me to amendment 15. I should say at the outset that we are very committed to ensuring maximum accessibility for different user groups—that is part of the reason for introducing this legislation to start with. Many of the points that need to be made are in clause 82, to which the Opposition have tabled an amendment. I will address those questions in more detail when we come on to that clause.

I recognise the importance of accessibility, but I do not believe that the amendment is necessary, or that this is the right place to ensure greater accessibility. While inspectors will identify the causes of incidents, which could include issues around the accessibility of the vehicle, it is not their purpose to replace vehicle safety inspections or to ensure that vehicle safety is in line with accessibility requirements. Safety investigation is a long-standing practice, both in the UK and internationally, and under no circumstances would we wish to break precedent by adding to an inspector’s role in such a way.