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 Grahame Morris Grahame Morris Llafur, Easington 2:15, 19 Mawrth 2024

I seek clarification on a couple of issues in support of my hon. Friend the Member for Wakefield. I am not sure whether the Minister gave us this assurance in his remarks, so can he confirm whether the inspectorate will in due course become part of the road safety investigation branch that the Government committed to setting up in June 2022, when the Law Commission first looked into this, to prevent future incidents and make our roads safer?

Clearly, this is an evolving technology; this morning, the hon. Member for Copeland mentioned advanced driver assistance systems such as adaptive cruise control, lane-changing features and parking assist, which assist the driver but do not enable the vehicle to drive itself. Those features are in effect earlier versions of this evolving technology, which we believe will lead to autonomous self-driving vehicles. While those ADAS features are not automated, it is essential, in any investigation following an accident, that potential pitfalls—I can think of a number, particularly in parking—are identified at an early stage, in case it is a software or system failure that could be corrected. Can the Minister tell the Committee whether the inspectorate will look at accidents involving advanced driver assistance systems, as well as self-driving vehicles, at this stage?

I certainly support my hon. Friend the Member for Wakefield in ensuring that automated vehicles continue to be accessible to people with disabilities as they are designed and as the technology develops. I would be a bit disappointed if the Minister ruled out the role of inspectors in the process of assessing the suitability of automated vehicles, because that would be a missed opportunity. I urge him to consider the needs of disabled people at every stage, not just in the Bill, but more generally.

We have here a real opportunity. I have seen for myself, as has the hon. Member for Paisley and Renfrewshire North, the possibilities of improved access for people in wheelchairs or with various degrees of disability. Does the Minister agree that we must ensure that the inspectorate role includes an accessibility assessment to reduce the risk of potential harm from automated vehicles to people with disabilities, such as ensuring that the seatbelts are suitable for people in wheelchairs?