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Automated and Autonomous Driving: Regulation under uncertainty

Go to report:
Automated and Autonomous Driving: Regulation under uncertainty



Many cars sold today are already capable of some level of autonomous operation and prototype cars capable of driving autonomously have been and continue to be tested on public roads in Europe, Japan and the United States. These technologies have arrived rapidly on the market and their future deployment is expected to accelerate since autonomous driving promises many benefits – including improved safety, reduced congestion and lower stress for car occupants.

With the uptake of on-road autonomous driving being years rather than decades away, authorities will have to adapt existing rules and create new ones in order to ensure the full compatibility of these vehicles with the public’s expectations regarding safety, legal responsibility and privacy. This project looks at what issues will have to be considered at a strategic level by authorities as autonomous vehicles arrive on our roads.


We undertook this study on the basis of meetings and discussions amongst project partners, desktop research and invited the contribution of an external expert – Bryant Walker Smith, of the University of the South Carolina School of Law and the Center for Internet and Society at Stanford Law School.

What we found

  • Autonomous technologies are maturing and some autonomous driving is here already
  • Self-driving cars seem a near-term possibility but their range of capabilities is unclear
  • Road safety is expected to improve with vehicle automation but this effect remains untested at a large scale and may not be immediate or linear
  • There are many possible technological configurations for autonomous driving
  • There are two incremental paths towards full automation
  • Use and business cases are closely linked to automation pathways
  • Some authorities are developing regulatory frameworks for prototype testing though little anticipatory action is taking place on potential use cases

Policy Insights

  • Automated driving comprises a diverse set of emerging concepts that must be understood individually and as part of broader trends toward automation and connectivity
  • Uncertainty on market deployment strategies and pathways complicates the regulatory task
  • Incrementally shifting the driving task to machines and algorithms and away from people will require changes in insurance...
  • ...and may have an impact on what information developers and manufacturers of autonomous vehicles share and with whom
  • Regulators and developers should actively plan to minimise legacy risks


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