Automated Vehicles Bill [HL] - Second Reading

– in the House of Lords at 3:46 pm on 28 November 2023.

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Lord Davies of Gower:

Moved by Lord Davies of Gower

That the Bill be now read a second time.

Photo of Lord Davies of Gower Lord Davies of Gower Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)

My Lords, on behalf of my noble friend Lady Vere of Norbiton, I beg to move that the Bill be now read a second time. Self-driving vehicles offer an unprecedented opportunity to improve the safety and connectivity of our road network. Unencumbered by fatigue, distraction, frustration or intoxication, and built from the ground up to obey the rules of the road, self-driving vehicles could one day far exceed the standards of even the safest human drivers.

With 88% of road incidents currently involving human error, the potential for these technologies to reduce injury and save lives is plain to see. Self-driving vehicles could also improve connectivity across the country, opening up new options for travel and connecting people to amenities, jobs and education. Indeed, it is those currently at greatest risk of isolation—the elderly, those with disabilities and our rural communities—who could see the greatest benefit from some of these new technologies.

The international self-driving market has vast growth potential. Playing to our strengths in research and innovation, and with a robust regulatory system in place, the UK could capture as much as £42 billion of that market by 2035. Thanks to close collaboration between government, industry and academia over the last decade, we are already well on our way. We have worked with developers to launch trials across the UK, including self-driving bus services in Edinburgh and self-driving heavy goods vehicles in Sunderland. These trials are taking place with safety drivers on board, and they provide proof of concept for a technology that is coming into maturity.

We have also worked to set a clear direction of travel for the sector. We were an early mover, in 2015 launching a code of practice for trialling self-driving vehicles on public roads. In 2018 Parliament passed the Automated and Electric Vehicles Act, ensuring that there is a clear and direct route to compensation for any harm caused by a vehicle when driving itself. In August last year, we published the Connected & Automated Mobility 2025 paper, setting out the Government’s vision for bringing the benefits of self-driving vehicles to the UK.

As the technology continues to mature, and trials look to advance beyond the need for safety drivers, we need to ensure that the UK stays ahead of the curve. We must support the deployment of self-driving vehicles with a comprehensive legal framework, one that can deliver high standards of safety, ensure clear accountability and win the confidence of both the public and the sector. This Bill provides that comprehensive legal framework.

At present, responsibility for safe and legal driving rests solely with the human driver. This is the case even when they employ one of the many advanced driver assistance features currently available on the market, such as adaptive cruise control, automatic parking or automatic emergency braking. When these features advance beyond mere assistance, and truly self-driving technology becomes a reality, it will no longer be reasonable to hold the human driver responsible for the vehicle’s behaviour.

To address this fundamental change, the Bill will, for the first time, provide for corporate entities to assume responsibility for how self-driving vehicles behave, underpinned by a robust framework of safety standards, monitoring and enforcement. This legislation implements the recommendations of a four-year review by the Law Commission of England and Wales and the Scottish Law Commission. Their joint report draws on countless hours of expert legal analysis and three rounds of public consultation yielding hundreds of responses. I am grateful to the commissioners for their work, and for providing such a robust set of foundations for this Bill.

I move on to the main measures of the Bill, beginning with the issue that I know, rightly, will be at the forefront of noble Lords’ minds. Safety will be baked into every facet of this new regime from the very beginning. Only vehicles that meet the self-driving test will be authorised as self-driving. To satisfy this test, they will need to meet rigorous standards and be capable of driving safely and legally without human intervention. The test will be informed by a statement of safety principles, published by government following consultation and setting out the behaviours that self-driving vehicles should be expected to achieve. We intend that these safety principles will be drafted in line with the Government’s safety ambition: that self-driving vehicles should meet an equivalent level of safety to that of a careful and competent human driver. Perhaps regrettably, I should stress that this is in fact a much higher standard than that of the average driver on UK roads.

A new authorisation scheme will supplement the existing vehicle approval process and apply the self- driving test. The scheme will guarantee that there is an authorised self-driving entity, or ASDE, associated with every self-driving feature deployed in vehicles on our roads. The ASDE, likely a corporate entity such as the manufacturer or software developer, will assume responsibility for how the vehicle drives when the self- driving feature is activated. Once authorised, the vehicle and the ASDE will be subject to ongoing safety monitoring under the in-use regulatory scheme. Any safety-critical changes to the self-driving feature will require reauthorisation.

The Bill distinguishes between two types of self-driving features: those that can complete an entire journey in self-driving mode and those that can complete only part of a journey, thus requiring the option of handing back control to a human driver in certain contexts. In the latter case, while the vehicle is driving itself, the driver assumes a new role, which we call the user-in-charge. The Bill shields the user-in-charge from prosecution for offences relating to the driving task. The user-in-charge remains responsible for other elements not relating to the driving task, such as roadworthiness and insurance. Naturally, they are required to resume control if directed to by the vehicle, subject to being given sufficient time to regain awareness.

On no-user-in-charge, or NUIC, some features will allow the vehicle to complete an entire journey without needing the option of handing back to a human. These features will not require a user-in-charge. People in the vehicle, if indeed there are any at all, would all simply be considered passengers while the self-driving vehicle is activated. We refer to these as no-user-in-charge features.

The Bill creates a new legal entity for these circumstances: a licensed no-user-in-charge operator, also known as a NUIC operator. The NUIC operator will be comparable to a fleet operator; responsible for overseeing the vehicle and responding to incidents such as breakdowns. As always, the ASDE retains responsibility for how the vehicle drives.

The Bill includes a strict obligation on both these new entities, ASDEs and NUIC operators, to disclose safety data as part of in-use regulation, with criminal penalties for managers if they fail to comply. The Bill also grants powers to investigate incidents and issue regulatory sanctions. We will be able to direct entities to take certain actions to prevent future incidents, to issue compensation to those impacted or to pay fines. The Secretary of State will have unilateral power to suspend or alter any self-driving authorisation rapidly, if necessary to protect public safety. The Bill also contains measures to allow for safety investigations to be undertaken by independent statutory inspectors. These inspectors’ reports will not apportion blame or liability, but instead will make recommendations to improve safety in the sector as a whole. Together, the individual elements of the safety framework—approval, authorisation, in-use regulation, operator licensing and incident investigation—will form a safety feedback loop so that learning and improvement is baked in.

The Bill represents a major step in creating a full legal framework for self-driving vehicles, but it is not the only step. As with any new technology, we must regulate alongside its growth, building in the right checks and balances and the flexibility to respond to new developments and new use cases. The Bill will be followed by consultations and secondary legislation on the core elements that I have outlined. The statement of safety principles will be subject to parliamentary scrutiny, as will the authorisation and approval requirements and the in-use regulation scheme.

All the secondary legislative elements that make up the cohesive whole will be consulted on following Royal Assent, bringing in the views of the public, industry and academia. They will be delivered through secondary legislation or statutory guidance, which can be developed over time and subsequently amended as the technology evolves. Policy scoping notes relating to elements of the secondary legislation programme have been published, and I encourage noble Lords to review them ahead of Committee. I am also happy to arrange in-depth briefings as required.

Before I conclude, I would like to clarify the extent of the Bill. The scope of the Law Commission’s review was

“self-driving regulation in relation to road vehicles”.

Therefore, the Bill does not deal with other forms of self-driving technology, such as drones, aircraft or sea-craft. The Bill will extend to Great Britain. Self-driving vehicles which are authorised under the new regime can be authorised to use their self-driving features only in England, Wales and Scotland. While there is no explicit legal prohibition on their use if they cross the border into Northern Ireland, they would be operating without the clarity of legal responsibility that the Bill will provide. Operation with a safety driver or in conventional, human-driven mode will still be possible.

I conclude by highlighting again the opportunities here, for they are threefold. The first is road safety. Over 1,500 people are killed on our roads each year; each one a tragic loss felt so keenly by friends and family. There is now an opportunity to start to reduce that loss. The Bill is explicit that our safety principles must be framed with a view to improving road safety, and our safety ambition goes beyond this, setting a standard well above that of the average human driver.

The second opportunity is connectivity. Self-driving vehicles could significantly improve the efficiency of passenger and freight traffic on our roads while offering new travel options to those most at risk of isolation.

Finally, there is the economic opportunity. Recent years have seen astonishing leaps forward in the UK’s homegrown self-driving vehicle sector. The Law Commission’s thorough and detailed review of this subject lasted four years. In that same period, the UK self-driving sector generated £475 million of direct investment and created 1,500 new jobs. With the Law Commission’s work as its foundation, this legislation will deliver the vital legal clarity that the UK needs to retain its position at the global vanguard of this new technology. I beg to move.

Photo of Lord Tunnicliffe Lord Tunnicliffe Shadow Spokesperson (Defence), Shadow Minister (Transport) 3:59, 28 November 2023

My Lords, I welcome the introduction of this long-awaited Bill to regulate self-driving vehicles. It introduces a legal framework to enable this developing technology in the UK, building on the insurance measures for automated cars in the Automated and Electric Vehicles Act 2018 and policies set out in the August 2022 paper.

Unfortunately, this Bill is not enough to give the public or industry confidence in the emerging technology. Its bare-bones regulations allow driverless cars on our roads, set minimum standards and make manufacturers responsible, but it fails properly to prepare for the transition period when some vehicles will be automated and others not. The Government need to prepare for the transition with a plan to monitor and prepare for the rollout, to give industry the certainty that it needs to invest and the public the confidence that they will be safe on our roads.

I am also concerned that the Bill offers no protection for the jobs that could be lost during the transition, which is why these Benches will call on the Government to engage with trade unions and workers to make sure that automation creates jobs rather than loses them. What assessment have the Government made of how many new jobs could be created in the self-driving vehicle industry? What preliminary discussions has the Minister had with trade unions about the rollout?

There are also missed opportunities in this Bill. Throughout its passage, I hope the House will consider potential loopholes in the legislation. For example, why does it not cover autonomous robots such as personal delivery devices? To turn briefly to the marketing restrictions, can the Minister explain what instances have led to these clauses? Are misleading marketing practices for self-driving vehicles commonplace here in the UK or elsewhere in the world?

I move to the liability clauses. The Bill outlines a provision for an independent inspector who is able to investigate collisions and incidents involving automated vehicles to assess what technology may need to be improved but not to indicate blame or cause. However, given that the Bill outlines specific legal accountability depending on whether the driver or automated vehicle is in control in order to assign cause, does the Minister believe that the inspector should have a similar, though non-legally binding, power to independently report to Parliament on the effect and safety of automated vehicles on Britain’s roads?

I turn to the clauses highlighting the differences between user-in-charge vehicles, which require a legal and fit driver to assume vehicle control for parts of a journey, and non-user-in-charge vehicles, which can operate entirely autonomously for an entire journey. The Minister will know that non-user-in-charge vehicles do not require a legal and fit driver to be in the vehicle at any point during the journey. Will he therefore outline the safety regulations should a non-user-in-charge vehicle suffer a fault during a journey, given that there may be no legal and fit driver present to assume control of the vehicle?

The passage of this Bill will have the support of these Benches, but I hope the Minister will work constructively with Members from across the House to address any deficiencies or shortcomings. Autonomous vehicles present an exciting opportunity, which, if properly utilised and regulated by this Government, could create a safer and more prosperous way of living. Unfortunately, the transition and the rollout of this technology could also pose serious challenges to public safety and jobs.

Only vehicles which are safe for drivers, passengers and pedestrians should be allowed on our roads. Ministers must review all available evidence to ensure this remains the case. I finish by urging the Minister again to take steps to guarantee that the introduction of autonomous vehicles brings decent new jobs here in the UK. Automation has an incredible potential to make our lives simpler and more prosperous. However, if not properly managed and regulated, it could create greater risks than opportunities.

Photo of Baroness Bowles of Berkhamsted Baroness Bowles of Berkhamsted Liberal Democrat 4:05, 28 November 2023

My Lords, I declare my interest, as a member of my family works in the vehicle connectivity sector, but I have no financial interests. I have migrated to this Bill from my usual territory of financial services, business and intellectual property, and it is those aspects which I will mainly cover.

At present, there is a thriving ecosystem in the automated and connected vehicle sectors, including small and innovative businesses, especially on the software side, and whose protection and income streams are based on intellectual property and data. While I understand and appreciate the work that has been done by the Law Commissions and the legal framework in the Bill, I have questions about its impact on that ecosystem for small businesses in particular, and for the preservation of intellectual property rights and rights to monetise data.

My concern is heightened by the already prevalent tendency to default to big-name providers, including large overseas technology companies winning government contracts. There is already an unlevel playing field caused by “play safe” selection of dominant companies, and that dominance is further reinforced by the acquisition of data for themselves when they are selected for important UK projects. Government has a role to play here if it wants to emerge with any UK champions. That includes government having the expertise to analyse bids from less obvious sources, and without forcing commercial disclosures of a type not normally sought from large entities. I have also noted the announcement that the Government may be amending the National Security and Investment Act regarding mergers and acquisitions, which may also further benefit big-name companies from abroad.

Turning to the Bill, I wonder how the present ecosystem will be affected by the conditions surrounding the new regulated entities. This is a point where information requirements could force disclosures or distort contracts, essentially stripping supply chain companies of their commercial, IP and data exploitation opportunities. It would be unfortunate for smaller companies to be forced into a choice between ultimate liability and massive insurance costs, or contract and licensing provisions that leverage away their own data exploitation possibilities.

I now turn more specifically to insurance. At the commercial level, the London market is well placed to develop cover for the UK and elsewhere, so I noted with interest that the Government announced a consultation on captives: that is, an insurance company which is a wholly owned subsidiary providing insurance to its non-insurance parent company or companies. Somewhat ironically, London has the best experts for this underwriting, but we do not have any captives within the UK. Captives might be attractive for the automated vehicle sector, with their associated commercial considerations, including as a part of providing “good financial standing”. However, will the UK regulator, the Prudential Regulation Authority, take exception to the monoline nature of captives and make life difficult? Has the Minister any information in that regard, and have there been cross-departmental discussions?

The other insurance aspect is for the consumer, with a particular point of interest being when a driver becomes liable after a transition from automated driving. Naturally, insurance companies are interested in data on those transitions, including how many times those instances happen and in what circumstances and where, as well as driving patterns and so on. That is commercially useful to insurance companies for the purposes of assessing risk, getting the prices right and ascertaining whether someone is liable, and who. My question is: should they get it all for free? Some insurance companies are already involved in funding developments; others are not. Should their positions be the same? Over time, information will derive naturally from actual claims, but, more generally, this is an area where the entitlement to benefit from or monetise data resides elsewhere.

Some of this kind of information may also be delved into for other investigatory purposes, including authorisation and licensing. For the consumer, there is the dangling threat of insurance companies having to analyse whether the response at handover was what a competent driver would do.

Putting a simple time limit for the liability switch is making light of a difficult situation. Fighter pilots are trained in handovers—and I doubt that they are doing crosswords in the meanwhile; but that is the position envisaged in the documents I have read. I have spent a lot of time being driven around, rather than driving, as a safety precaution. Many times, I have looked up from reading a brief to wonder where on earth I was and felt quite disoriented—and that was in a constituency I was supposed to know and was representing. Regrettably, we will need statistics before we know the interval after handover that is fair to compare with a competent driver in ordinary circumstances—even if we can define that—because it will be different on a straight road with no manoeuvring expected, compared with a much more complex layout or circumstances when the AV cannot cope any more. Potentially, this puts a lot of uncertainty on the consumer, as well as insurance companies, and there may be a role for a levy and compensation model around the transitions, at least initially.

Clause 14 allows access to data for insurance purposes, but it is not clear to me whether that is intended to be free, so perhaps the Minister could shed some light on that. Already, there is lobbying to make the wording mandatory. That is relevant because provisions in the Bill acknowledge commercial rights—in this context, Clause 42(7), which applies to the whole of Part 1 —but that does not protect commercial rights where the disclosure and use by third parties is considered necessary. Clause 14 already seems to imply that information disclosure to insurers and others may be necessary—regulations might make it so—and the industry lobby wants to make it so in the Bill. Either route to mandating puts it outside the commercial harm provision in subsection (7). That needs more examination, and I suggest something along the lines of fair and reasonable compensation for the commercial use of information.

Finally, I have some interest in proof of safety and proof of concept, as it takes a vast amount of data to prove statistically that something is safer than something that exists already. Road fatality in the UK is 5 per billion miles driven. If you were to compare that with, say, a statistically significant number, you might have to look at the number of driven miles per 50 deaths. However, that would be 10 billion miles driven, which could be 100,000 AVs driving 10,000 miles, or 10,000 AVs driving 100,000 miles. That is an awful lot of miles, and we only have about 100 to 500 vehicles that could do that, so that converts to 20 to 100 years, depending on which end we are at.

I am interested to know how we are going to get this kind of mileage done. Will it be all in the UK? Will we accept evidence from other countries? Will it be for each AV, because why should you have your statistics marred by a bad apple? If we are going to accept evidence from other countries, can we be sure that it will be from similar driving conditions? A lot more could be discussed around that, but it is a very big statistical job to prove that something is safer than something else.

I recognise that the Bill is the start of constructing a framework and not the end, so I look forward to exploring its effects and some of the things that I have raised further at Committee stage.

Photo of Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth Conservative 4:15, 28 November 2023

My Lords, it is a great pleasure to follow the noble Baroness and particularly to hear some of her insights on the insurance industry. I congratulate my noble friend on his appointment to the Front Bench in the transport portfolio; we go back a long way, and I am delighted that he is in this role. I declare my interests as set out in the register.

I am very supportive of this legislation. It is excellent and very necessary. AI and automated vehicles present great positive opportunities for our country and for the people who live here, including workers. Properly grabbed, it should mean an increase in the number of jobs in the United Kingdom and this is what the legislation is all about. For the individual, it is the opportunity for people being transported to enhance relaxation in a vehicle or to work in a vehicle while it is being driven. Properly handled, it will improve road safety, with fewer accidents. I know that is something we will want to look at as the legislation passes through your Lordships’ House.

I do not want to go into any detail on particular provisions at Second Reading but just to talk about the general principles of the legislation. It will allow non-drivers, older drivers, partially sighted drivers and blind people the freedom to be driven. It will allow freight to be transported at non-peak hours more easily. Properly handled, it will reduce carbon emissions. It will reduce the need for roadside assistance for accidents. It will lead to lower insurance premiums for vehicle owners who are being driven. This is the golden inheritance we will have if we tackle this legislation in the right way. Of course, I appreciate that the devil will be in the detail, but this legislation is important.

Moving away from the individual, there will be massive possibilities for the UK economy, as well as for other countries which will necessarily be our competitors such as the US, Israel, China and those in Europe. No doubt, there will also be the facility for co-operation, and I wonder whether my noble friend will be able to indicate whether there have been discussions with other countries. I had the opportunity of corresponding with John Aquino of Cruise in Silicon Valley—I think Silicon Valley is where there has been the most progress—to hear about some of the insights there and the possibilities. He has told me of work happening in our own country—Wayve AI in Cambridge and London in particular.

Since 2015, the Government have funded the new Centre for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles and I would be keen to hear from my noble friend what the budget is and what work has been done. Work is being done as we speak on ensuring that we grapple with these opportunities. It is a government body with scientific and technological expertise, and it would be good to hear from my noble friend what precisely it is doing and, as I say, about the budget and what liaison there is with other countries.

The Government deserve enormous credit for this legislation. It is important. We will need a budget and it will be good to hear how that works out. I realise that this is essentially reserved legislation, but it is important that we liaise with Wales and Scotland and, where appropriate, Northern Ireland—I appreciate that it is outside the legislation, but no doubt it would want to know how things could be developed there too. I am also keen to hear about that.

Passenger transport is obviously a particular challenge. My noble friend mentioned what is already happening in Edinburgh, and it would be good to hear about that experience. I appreciate that drones and waterborne vehicles are outside the scope of the legislation, but there is obviously work to be done there as well, so it might be good to hear what the Government propose in the long term in those areas, while noting that they are not subject to this legislation.

Safety must be paramount in the legislation—it goes without saying that that is the most important thing—and no doubt we will be looking at that in detail as it passes through your Lordships’ House. I would also be keen to look at the sanctions, both criminal and civil, and what existing legislation we would want to make use of and how that works in with this.

In concluding, I think the Government deserve credit and I trust that we will all get behind this legislation and improve it as it passes through your Lordships’ House.

Photo of Lord Cameron of Dillington Lord Cameron of Dillington Crossbench 4:20, 28 November 2023

My Lords, I support the Bill. It is right that as a nation we should signal our acceptance of this technology, even if it is not quite yet oven-ready or mature enough to be properly rolled out. We are a nation whose future will depend on our ability to adapt and harness new technologies, so we must signal to the entrepreneurial businesses of the world that we are open for such business. “Come and build here” is the message we are giving, and I thoroughly approve.

I also support this Bill in my capacity as an occasional spokesman for both rural Britain and an ever-greener Britain. It will help to improve connectivity and reduce the isolation of the rural elderly, while ensuring that all generations have better access to training, work and leisure. Initially, my thinking went along the lines of each parish having a self-drive vehicle for use by its parishioners, but then I realised that you would not need to do that; you would just need two or three privately owned self-drive cars which could be rented out to parishioners to go to the hospital, shops or even the local evening football training—all cars properly licensed, of course.

Elon Musk believes that not only will self-driving cars be 10 times safer than manual cars but they will, in his words, develop “massive fleet learning”. He also believes that, bearing in mind that we use our car for less than 10% of our waking hours—I am surprised it is that much—just by tapping a button, we will be able to add our car to, say, the Uber 2 fleet and have it earn income for us when we are at work or on vacation. In my case, of course, that would mean I would have to remove my golf clubs from the boot, not to mention the rubbish that always seems to accumulate in my car, but maybe it will be worth it.

Going back to village transport, I fear that it is unlikely that at present the Uber fleet—either manual or self-drive—will be available in most rural villages, but the existence of self-drive vehicles within a community will mean that Mrs Smith, who owns such a car, will be able to lend it out to her neighbours without having to drive it herself or having to worry about the driving skills of old Mr Jones going to the hospital, or even young Master Jones going to football training. As a result, connectivity in rural areas will be dramatically improved—and, believe me, after the lack of housing, the lack of public transport to shops, health services, leisure and even jobs is one of the most serious shortcomings of current rural living if your income happens to be in the lowest quartile.

I have to admit, and I apologise for it, that I was not able to attend the various briefing meetings that have been held in anticipation of this Bill, so I may have missed something, but I have one or two minor concerns that I do not think are touched on in the Bill. They probably fall into the category of ancillary legislation, which the Minister mentioned. As I said, they are not serious concerns, but I hope they are worth mentioning.

For instance, we might have to change the Highway Code and even the law to stop jaywalkers. In certain self-driving vehicle trials in Italy, people tended to walk out in front of automatic vehicles and behave irresponsibly—to challenge them, as it were. I am not sure what that says about the average Italian pedestrian or their current expectation of Italian driving abilities, but my point is that when we have self-drive cars on our roads, it may be that, as in the USA and Switzerland for instance, UK pedestrians should be able to walk across urban roads—I stress urban—only at certain points and when permitted. We do not want early accidents undermining the success of self-drive vehicles— I speak as an inveterate jaywalker.

On the other hand, on the assumption that all AVs will have permanently functioning all-round cameras and even black boxes, people will soon learn. Everything around a self-drive car will be recorded. You might even think twice about smacking your child near a self-drive car.

One other aspect occurred to me. I do not expect an answer as it is probably again an ancillary matter, but there are times when one is driving along and the police wave you down to tell you that there has been an incident of some sort and that you will have to wait or find another route. Clearly, a self-drive car will have no problem either waiting or finding an alternative route, but how will the policeman communicate with a self-drive car and how will the self-drive car know that this is a policeman and not some random joker, trouble- maker or car thief? As I said, neither of my concerns represents an insurmountable problem.

Finally, I have an extra reason to support this Bill. It is the hope that it will encourage the development of the same self-drive technology in other fields, off the road. I realise that the noble Lord has excluded these from the umbrella of this Bill, but I want to state them anyway. I have long had this vision of all farming in the world, particularly on smallholdings in sub-Saharan Africa, being carried out by myriad small, connected and automated tractors—CATs, I call them—about the size of a garden tractor or smaller. They are beginning to be developed. These CATs, I hope, will soon be nurturing the crop in their field carefully, day and night, using their own artificial intelligence and awareness of the weather forecasts, with only the minimal use of sprays and fertilisers, to produce a crop without the need for the farmers themselves to be expensively trained, because that expensive training is in sub-Saharan Africa the major blockage to optimal food production.

The other area for AVs is on the high seas. Rolls-Royce is on record as saying that a greater use of autonomous marine vessels could save the global marine industry up to £80 billion per annum in potential reductions to capital costs, manning costs and fuel costs. However, all that is in the future and, as the Minister said, not particularly relevant to this Bill, even if the technology implicit in the Bill is what is going to make it happen. So I conclude by repeating that I thoroughly approve of the Bill and I look forward to us all ironing out the inevitable potential problems as we take it forward.

Photo of Lord Borwick Lord Borwick Conservative 4:27, 28 November 2023

My Lords, I first declare my interest as an officer of the APPG for Self-Driving Vehicles and a business lifetime spent in the vehicle industry. I am also the father of a son who has learning difficulties and could, like many disabled people, certainly benefit from these vehicles. I have also been the chairman of the Greenwich trial technical committee. I can reassure the noble Lord, Lord Cameron, that the pedestrian schoolchildren in that trial who thought it would be useful to leap out in front of an autonomous vehicle to see whether it stopped tried it two or three times and found that it did stop. After that, they found the whole experience extremely boring and stopped taunting the vehicle in this way—so in fact it was perfectly safe.

This is an enabling Bill, to enable what I hope is a great industry. We cannot be certain about the future, of course, but we can be fairly certain about the present. The present state of cars cannot be optimum. They are driven badly by humans who get bored, smoke, chat or argue with their family, get drunk and certainly produce urban pollution by accelerating too fast and braking too hard. Computers will be better drivers because they have more varied input than humans, and much better ability to concentrate on the problems. The question of the moment is: when did you last enjoy driving? Was it when there was less traffic and when there were fewer bicycles and bus lanes? Would we enjoy driving more in an autonomous vehicle? This Bill is quite wide in its power to demand information. The danger is only that too much information is delivered. If the department gets terabytes of data following an accident, will it realistically be able to cope?

There are people working on digital commentary systems, which tell the listener what is being observed and why the vehicle is doing something. The systems are analogous to the way of teaching a young driver to improve by getting them to comment on their driving decisions. How much useful information comes out will depend on the detailed decision process, but it certainly can be considered. The alternative is that, following an accident, somebody issues terabytes of data and we are no further forward in working out how to stop other vehicles with other systems repeating the accident. That happens now, because human drivers are very fallible in remembering their own faults. In general, the sooner we can get this Bill into law, the better.

Photo of Lord Berkeley Lord Berkeley Labour 4:30, 28 November 2023

My Lords, it gives me pleasure to take part in this debate and I declare an interest as a member of the all-party AV group. I am also grateful for so many members of the industry who came and briefed us last week. We also need to thank the House of Lords Library, which has produced a comprehensive summary of the issues, and of course the Law Commission, which has spent four years looking at it. I think it is a really good Bill and it is going to help us a lot, as many noble Lords have told us.

It will be good for the concept of who is in charge. I like this idea of a user-in-charge; that is a really important issue. But, given the fact that the Bill has, I think, 77 clauses, it is going to take some studying when we get to Committee. One of the issues is going to be, as one or two noble Lords have said, the question of interfaces between when you are on automatic mode, if I can call it that; when you are not on that; where you are when it happens and who else gets involved, or should not do. The noble Lord, Lord Cameron, talked about the importance of having some self-drive capability, especially in the country, and he is absolutely right. To some extent, we could be using scooters or electric bikes—self-drive cars probably have a benefit of being more weather-resistant than my electric scooter, my electric bike or anything else—but the idea of individual transport is something we seem to have talked about a lot at the moment. It has to be good for everyone, efficient, convenient and a good investment.

I would like to spend a few minutes talking about safety. As the Minister said in his excellent introduction, safety is very important. But, like all things that are mechanical, when they come into contact with pedestrians, cyclists or other non-motorised users, the safety debate gets a little bit unfair. The AVs will probably be better than humans at avoiding collisions with other motor vehicles, but when it comes to humans on the road, or cyclists or whatever, there are a few questions we need to address. I was impressed by the background briefing that noble Lords will have received for the King’s Speech quite recently, which set out the requirements that came from the Law Commission:

“Only vehicles that can drive themselves safely and can follow all road traffic rules without the need for a human to monitor or control the vehicle … will be classified as self-driving and allowed on our roads”.

It carries on to say:

“Companies will have to meet safety requirements from the point a vehicle is introduced onto our roads or face new sanctions and penalties”.

We then come to the definition of what is safe: what are the safety principles that the Minister mentioned? We are told that road safety in Great Britain is better as a result of the use of authorised automatic vehicles on roads than it would otherwise be. I challenge that. This country’s road safety record is a lot worse than many other countries’. I am sure we will go into this in Committee. It is worse than Sweden, which had a target about 10 years ago of not having any road deaths at all in a year. It has not got there, but it is still better than us.

We have to get this safety rule better defined somehow. I am sure I shall have some amendments when we come to it. It is also a question of where we do it. If one is driving up a motorway, or your vehicle is, that is probably quite a good place to start the trial because there would be no pedestrians or cyclists, we hope, on the motorway. I expect that is one of the things that went quite well in the United States until recently. But when you get to narrow roads—maybe in the village that the noble Lord, Lord Cameron, mentioned; I do not know—or to towns and cities, it will get much more difficult. I will not read out my definition of safety now because that will come in Committee, but we can do a great deal better and have a target of making our road safety even better than it is at the moment.

On regulation, or how this will be policed and enforced, I recall proposing an amendment to some transport Bill a long time ago that suggested that the Office of Rail and Road should be responsible for road safety as well as rail safety. It does a good job on rail safety, as we all know, but it is not allowed to do much on road safety because that is thought to be the role of either the Department for Transport or the police. The ORR has a technical expertise that is well worth looking at. It would be quite nice if we had a consistent structure between these various transport modes—I include air as well as rail, road and sea—so that we have a safety regulator and, separately, an accident investigation branch that also does a blame-free investigation. We have a lot to learn, and it would be really good to bring in a bit of consistency.

Finally, I ask the Minister how this Bill and what we aim to do compares with what has happened on the continent in France, Belgium, Germany, Italy, Spain or wherever. Are we ahead or behind? If I want to drive my car to France, will it work on AV mode there or do we have a long way to go? I look forward to his comments and to this Bill’s passage through the House.

Photo of The Earl of Lytton The Earl of Lytton Crossbench 4:38, 28 November 2023

My Lords, it is a great pleasure to follow the noble Lord, particularly because it was he who encouraged me to take part in this debate. I acknowledge that self-driving vehicles are an exciting technology, with considerable advantages and implications for distribution, deliveries, and public and personal transport. It is partly the reason why 5G rollout is an object of government policy. To get ahead of that, we obviously need legislation and a framework for the future. I commend the all-party parliamentary group on its work and on setting out a very useful shopping list of criteria. I found that most helpful.

Any policy in this area must consistently apply core principles or it will fail, which is why Part 1 of the Bill is so important. But before the Government get too misty-eyed over the seductive technology and the benefits claimed by protagonists, I just suggest a slight reality check. This is also in the hope that someone will tell me that there are answers to all my reservations.

First, there are some claims made for AVs that I respectfully challenge. One is that AV technology is greener. It transpires on closer examination that this is largely hypothecated on the use of battery electric vehicles, a development that already exists and is not intrinsic to self-driving vehicles. Another is that it might be expected to reduce congestion. On that, too, I am not entirely convinced. Even in a fully digitised, connected and traffic management-ordered world, and even if the numbers of vehicles are reduced, peaks of congestion, unplanned events, inadequate capacity and progressive devotion of urban road space to other priorities are likely to persist. However, the idea of instantly directing approaching vehicles away from traffic incidents would be extremely welcome and, I am sure, benefit emergency services. That said, if the traffic jam-avoiding algorithms of some of the more hyperactive satnav systems are any indication—and I have used a few—significant additional road miles by way of diversions through previously quiet residential streets may be one rather negative outcome.

The AVs that replace conventional vehicles may also be on the road for longer hours, so there are numerous other factors to be considered before some of the claims are entirely credible to me. Safety, referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, seems to be at least partly a factor of road design as opposed to the intrinsic error of the human.

Secondly, I believe it is an acknowledged fact that for an extended period of time—possibly several decades —there will be AVs with artificial intelligence and smart sensors, and conventional vehicles driven by fallible mortals, all sharing the same space. This was referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe. This requires an artificial intelligence that can cope with the irrational. I am a driver—that is the only interest I need to declare for this purpose—and I can usually tell whether a motorist in front of me or in another lane is distracted, looking for a destination, diffident or nervous, likely to cut in or pull out with little warning, or just plain aggressive. However, if I live long enough to be a driver faced with general AV use, I would like a visual warning of the fact so that I can make due allowance. Maybe a little flashing light could do that job for me.

Thirdly, there is the technology itself, which—leaving the matter of 5G rollout to one side—still has some way to go, in my view. I drive a vehicle that has certain automated assistance functions; noble Lords will be familiar with these. It has an automatic braking system that I cannot disable. A bit like a flighty horse, it is liable to screech to a halt for a plastic bag blowing across the road in front, an uneven roadside kerb or even pedestrian railings on a bend. It is only a matter of time before another driver goes into the back of me because of this. It also warns me fairly frequently that this function has become inoperative due to external conditions. It did not react to a deer that crossed the road immediately in front of me on the A24 the other night, which I hit a glancing blow.

The lane change warning is, however, something I can disable; it takes the form of a rather unnerving wobble in the steering that could, of course, mean other things to an experienced driver. On satnav, I frequently find that the speed limit, road priorities or even roads and junctions themselves have not been updated, despite a recent software download. Sometimes the system does not even know where I am, for admittedly short but potentially critical periods—there is one junction on the M25 that is like that. I predict that it will be some considerable time before the communications network is robust and comprehensive enough and has adequate reserve capacity—emergency capacity in particular —for general AV use. For a while, I suspect that greater differentials will arise between those areas where AVs can be used successfully and those where they cannot. We should not be blind to that.

Of course, there is the issue of suitability, to which Clause 1(3) of the Bill refers in terms of vehicle credentials. It should also take account of the road environment in which these vehicles operate, which is often of very variable quality. AVs may operate successfully somewhere such as Milton Keynes, for instance, on a coherently designed and well-constructed street layout. But get to, say, the rural West Country, an area that I part-time share with the noble Lord, Lord Cameron of Dillington, and it is a rather different matter.

So, even without erased road markings; signage hidden behind vegetation or too dirty to read; the odd failed traffic light; roads with hidden potholes, anything but conventional width and—my noble friend Lord Cameron will understand when I say this—with or without large farm vehicle usage on narrow lanes; and no 5G or indeed any G at all, there are potential limits to where AVs may be safely used, apart from the general competency of the vehicle itself. I do not see this expressed clearly in Part 1.

While on that subject, I note a peculiarity in the definition of a road, which in 2021 was the subject of a legal case on the Isle of Wight and caused me to contemplate private roads where Street View does not penetrate and which may have novel street finishes, furniture, strange demarcation and so on. Two recent road schemes on public roads near my home are clearly defective. One is affected by appalling visibility for traffic approaching from the right, and the other is a new staggered junction of such appalling geometry that you cannot negotiate it without seriously cutting the corner. That does not matter if you are in smart car, but it does if you are in a delivery truck.

I entirely take the point made in an email I received from the cycling lobby that its members, plus, of course, the elderly on scooters, pedestrians, pets, deer, foxes, badgers and preferably hedgehogs, need to be recognisable by this evolving technology.

I have a particular worry, which has been expressed by other noble Lords, about this hybrid driver in control who is none the less able to allow automation to take over, subject to immediate human intervention where necessary. I sense this may become a commonplace halfway house, which is why I mention it when other noble Lords have also done so. I am not a behavioural scientist, but I wonder how quickly human attention returns to effective and possibly emergency reaction if, given conventional distractions inside or outside the vehicle, focus has wandered elsewhere once automation takes over. Avoiding danger is often a matter of intuitive prediction and behavioural clues, not always achieved in the last resort by sensors suddenly deciding they are going to apply the brakes.

Finally, a cautionary tale. In a previous attempt to improve highway capacity and safety, the Government invested in—noble Lords will know this—smart motorways. But, seemingly in an effort to reduce costs, they decided to omit the safety camera system designed to detect vehicles stopped in the slow lane—with tragic consequences. I am no longer happy simply to allow a Government driven by the politics of presentation and the balancing of finances, possibly in priority over safety, a completely free hand in such matters. I want an entity with comprehensive focus, independence, status and determination, equivalent to something like the Health and Safety Executive, to have oversight of how this technology is rolled out. I am not clear that the Bill adequately deals with that.

Therefore, while welcoming AV technology and the necessity of this Bill, I do not see it as addressing all essential aspects; and there are a lot of caveats to this, with critical elements left to subsequent regulation. I simply suggest proceeding with some caution lest we act in haste only to repent at leisure.

Photo of Lord Holmes of Richmond Lord Holmes of Richmond Conservative 4:48, 28 November 2023

My Lords, I welcome the Bill, and it is a pleasure to take part in this Second Reading debate. In doing so, I declare my technology interest as adviser to Boston Ltd. I congratulate the Law Commission on its excellent work on the Bill. It has done a significant suite of work across many new technologies and delivered Bills, commentary and reports to Parliament of excellent quality; long may that continue. It enables us to have better initial legislation and a sense of the depth and breadth of the issues involved when we try to make optimum use of and deploy all the new technologies we currently have in our human hands.

I would like to touch on five principles: safety, transparency, accessibility, public engagement and power usage. First, on safety, it seems a useful discipline that, before embarking on any programme of automation or autonomous delivery, we should consider what can be done to improve the current situation. The Government state that the overriding objective here is better, safer journeys. What can currently be done with what we currently have?

When he winds up our debate, I would welcome comments from my noble friend the Minister on a number of examples. First, e-scooters: what do they add to better, safer journeys? What do they add to a healthier population? They certainly do not take cars out of the mix for the kind of journeys they do. What is the Government’s current position on further e-scooter experiments? What role do they think e-scooters play in a multiple, accessible, safe, healthy transport ecosystem?

There has been an extraordinary spike since Covid of cars and vehicles shooting red lights, even those on pedestrian crossings. Does my noble friend agree that, with very minimal technology investment—the cameras may well be there on many of these crossings and lights—government and local authorities should look to those cameras and that evidence to clamp down on and put an end to cars shooting red lights, as though red has suddenly become a soft amber simply to sail through? Can he confirm that, in major cities, these crossings are all likely to be currently monitored through the main transport control centres, such as Palestra in London?

Nothing is achieved by a planning folly to take away all road markings, all crossings, all traffic lights, all signage, and put cars and pedestrians, tankers and toddlers in a so-called “shared space”. What is the Government’s position on existing shared-space schemes? How are they helping to deliver the rightly set out overriding objective of safer, better, more accessible journeys?

The Minister stated in his introduction—and it is in the notes to the Bill—that autonomous vehicles “will not be distracted”. That is certainly true if one considers distraction from a human perspective, but what about all the things that can easily confuse, make the system not work as intended and have tragic consequences, as has sometimes been seen in other jurisdictions?

What have the Government made of the evidence from experiments from around the world? I will draw on one example, from California, where it was reported in evidence that 40 incidents of autonomous vehicles interfering with emergency services vehicles had been recorded. Does my noble friend the Minister think this a high or low number? What are the consequences? What analysis have the Government made of that evidence and how has that fed into the Bill before us? In short, what is the Government’s safety ambition for autonomous vehicles? In no sense do I advocate this or even suggest it, but to put it at its most extreme, if it was evidentially proven that autonomous vehicles with no user in charge were significantly safer than human drivers, would the Government move to ban human driving? I merely put the question as it seems a logical conclusion to the arguments set out in much of the Bill’s documentation.

Turning to transparency, will the data gathered in all these experiments be available? Will it be open for third parties to analyse, consider and look at? Transparency is critical if we are to have increasing engagement, comfort and confidence in these new technologies. Will the Government look to have accredited third-party professionals to review, opine on and accredit these systems—the systems much more than the vehicles themselves?

The Bill sets out that there will be an ongoing review of the vehicles, but it should be more a review of the vehicles, the software and the technologies. How regular is that review to be? For it to be optimal, it needs to be done in real time and second by second. What learnings have the Government taken from other industries, such as the airline industry, including the approach that Rolls-Royce takes with its sensational Trent engines?

On accessibility and inclusion, can my noble friend the Minister confirm that all development in this AV space will be inclusive by design? If it is, that will resolve so many of the issues of access and equality which will otherwise impact later down the track. Again, what learnings have been taken from many of the rollouts, not least in San Francisco, when it comes to accessibility? To what extent and in what way have disabled people been involved in the experiments in this country? What plans do the Government have to ensure that disabled people are involved—indeed, that the whole diversity of people are involved through every level and stage of this experimentation, development and deployment?

Building on that point of broader public engagement, I say that if we are to achieve the optimum outcomes from any of these new technologies, public engagement is absolutely critical. We have seen examples from the past where public engagement has been good: the technology has been taken on and largely melts into the background. It just becomes a positive part of our everyday lives—and indeed, vice versa. What has been done so far by the Government to have meaningful public engagement across the country when it comes to autonomous vehicles? What is the plan to further push for what is, from my point of view, dramatically increased public engagement to ensure that we take people, at every stage, on all these autonomous journeys?

On power usage, what analysis have the Government undertaken on the impact on the grid? It is clear that this is going to be part of the electrification of our transport provision, but how is that going to roll out? We can currently achieve all our mobility needs with but 15% of the existing fleet. How will the Government ensure that bringing autonomous vehicles on stream will not simply add more vehicles to the road, causing more congestion and difficulties? What is the plan to ensure that there is substitution and multiple usage of AVs, rather than this simply being additive?

Alongside that, where do the Government see the power source for this coming from? Where will that energy come from since, as has already been noted, electric vehicles are only as green as the fuel that powers them? Do we currently have the resources that we need and a plan for long-duration energy storage? When it comes to the batteries in vehicles, do we have resilience of supply? Where are we prepared to look to develop the battery technologies from? Are we looking to still have some potential UK sovereign battery production?

I welcome the Bill but, like all Bills, it will benefit from some work. If we can have something, by the time the Bill leaves us, which really moves us forward in terms of better and smarter journeys—more accessible and more inclusive journeys—who would not want to get on board?

Photo of Baroness Brinton Baroness Brinton Liberal Democrat 4:59, 28 November 2023

My Lords, it is always a pleasure to follow the noble Lord, Lord Holmes of Richmond, not just because of his general thought-provoking comments but specifically those around accessibility. I have been able to cut a couple of paragraphs I was going to start with.

I declare my past interest as a member of the Select Committee on the Equality Act and its impact on disabled people, which included assessing PSV transport regulations for safe and effective travel for disabled people. It must be right that the future of sustainable motoring lies with autonomous vehicles. The Bill, despite many of the issues raised so far, is a welcome first step to addressing how driving will change and what regulations will be needed to ensure that people—passengers and pedestrians—are safe. I will focus on just two specific interests that concern me.

The first is data protection, and I am very grateful for the comments made by my noble friend Lady Bowles earlier. I want to go into a very specific area. In Chapter 3 in Part 1, the Bill sets out the collection and sharing of information in relation to autonomous vehicles. While it is important that data is collected to understand how services and vehicles operate, what protections for personal data are proposed to ensure that any data collected is ring-fenced and can be used only by the relevant parties in a pseudonymised form?

The nature of the data collection of automated vehicles—whether PSVs or not—means that a far wider range of organisations would have legitimate access to that data. However, the collection of this data will be much more detailed than current systems. I cite Uber as an example; the company, the driver and the passenger who has booked the ride all share data between them. But that is not as much as is proposed in this Bill. There is a significant amount of data that will be shared for learning about how automated vehicles will work.

One of the points I am interested in is whether the Government would have access to that data. Would that also be ring-fenced specifically for transport purposes and not made available to either other departments or public bodies? For example, the Home Secretary and the police have asked in three Bills recently, that I am aware of, for access to personal confidential data—health data and other data—of individuals. Through amendment we have managed to ring-fence that to real need of it, rather than just the automatic right to collect it. That ought to be considered in this Bill too. Will organisations collecting the data be permitted to sell on some or all of it for commercial purposes? If so, will there be safe- guards to ensure that none of the identifiable individual data will be sold, other than through pseudonymised or truly anonymised formats?

My second issue relates to disabled and vulnerable passengers and people. I am sure that the noble Lord, Lord Borwick, was right to say that the Bill is an opportunity for disabled travellers, but there are also concerns, some of which the noble Lord, Lord Holmes, outlined. The Bill rightly talks about the importance of the safety of passengers in an automated vehicle. By disabled and vulnerable people, I mean the full range of those who, like myself, use a wheelchair, through to an elderly person who may need assistance or just a handle in the right place in the vehicle or more safety getting in and out when there is not anybody to assist them. Will the designs of all automated vehicles address the needs of disabled and vulnerable passengers?

It is very difficult and expensive to get an electric wheelchair accessible vehicle—WAV—at the moment, mainly because the automotive companies put the large batteries at exactly where the adjustments would be made to install a ramp and securing services for a wheelchair. If the Bill is heralding a new approach to building vehicles, accessibility needs to be built in right from the start and not by exception—by the norm. That way, disabled people will not have to pay over the odds for journeys that others just take for granted.

I will give an example from another sector. Habinteg, the housing charity, has costed up designing a house for a lifetime, rather than it having to be adapted as people get older. We are living in a society where that demographic change is happening rapidly. The initial cost is minute, but, thereafter, the facility of all homes built that way means that people do not have to move into other places or spend tens of thousands of pounds on the most basic things.

This brings me on to my second area of concern. Clause 83 disapplies taxis, private hire vehicles and bus legislation. The Explanatory Notes say that this is

“insofar as a permit holder is providing an automated passenger service in areas and vehicle types specified in the permit”.

My concern is that much of the disability equality regulations in transport might be covered by that exemption. I understand that there needs to be a different approach to regulation for automated vehicles, but can the Minister tell me how disabled passengers will be able to retain their rights under law to safe and effective travel?

I will give an example to illustrate that point. The PSV regulations give bus drivers the power to enforce the priority of wheelchair users over children’s buggies or even people who refuse to move out of the wheelchair space. That is the only place that this is held, so, if PSV regulations are disapplied, how will we ensure that disabled passengers will have the right to use spaces that they have now?

In Clause 93, in Part 6, there is a discussion about real-time traffic information for automated vehicles, including bus lanes, roadworks and diversions. The Explanatory Notes say that this information would also be available to other electronic equipment used by vehicles on roads. But this raises the issue of a disabled passenger—they could be visually impaired, in a wheelchair or just very frail—who suddenly finds that their PSV automated vehicle has been diverted and, without a human driver, they do not know where to get on or off. Believe me, it is hard enough when buses are suddenly diverted and you have to work out where you are going and whether the new drop-off space is on a pavement wide enough—but the drivers are there and able to be helpful. Without a driver, what would happen?

The Select Committee on the Equality Act 2010 and Disability report, The Equality Act 2010: The Impact on Disabled People, commented on the street scenes that the noble Lord, Lord Holmes, referred to, and on how disabled pedestrians—especially but not only those with visual impairment—struggle with very little separation between road and pavement. Clause 93 of this Bill covers the provision and also covers street scenes. How will automated vehicles, both PSV and private, be programmed to watch out for disabled pedestrians who may not be able to see? This is a different point from that of the noble Lord, Lord Cameron of Dillington, about jaywalkers: I am talking about people who may not be able to see and may not get the information that an automated vehicle is approaching them.

Here I will briefly quote the 2015 report from the noble Lord, Lord Holmes of Richmond, Accidents by Design. At the end, he said that

“there is an urgent need for an immediate moratorium on shared space until there is more and better evidence about the impact of shared space schemes, including an improved … record of accident data and a better understanding of the consequences of people literally designed out of these spaces”.

That is relevant not just to today’s shared spaces but to the Bill as a whole. It would be a real missed opportunity not to include safe disabled provision by design for a new age of automated vehicles.

I hope the Minister will be able to answer my questions, but I also wonder whether he might be prepared to meet with me, the noble Lord, Lord Holmes, and a couple of disability organisations to ensure the consideration—which he outlined—of the rights and needs of disabled people, so that they are not left out of legislation, planning and building in the future.

Photo of Lord Naseby Lord Naseby Conservative 5:09, 28 November 2023

My Lords, I am sure that I speak for all colleagues in the Chamber when I say that this debate has been enhanced by the contributions of the noble Baroness, Lady Brinton, and my noble friend Lord Holmes. The area that they have covered is so important.

I want to record in Hansard that today is an auspicious day for British transport, because today a jet took off from London airport using synthetic fuel to fly to the States. That is a huge achievement of the United Kingdom, and our development, our work and our taxpayers’ money has brought that about. I would like to record that in the context of this particular Bill.

Some 60 years ago-plus, I was a fast jet pilot. In those days, safety was absolutely paramount. If you were at the controls on your own, flying at anything up to 40,000 feet at a speed of up to 0.82 mach, you had to know what was happening; there was only one person who made the decision, with plenty of instruments reflecting the actions you were taking.

When I was preparing for the Bill, I was reminded of three fatal crashes that have occurred thanks to automation. I am sure that colleagues will remember them. There was the Boeing 737 MAX 8, in October 2018, when 189 people were killed, with the two pilots totally unable to do anything to stop the automation and the stall that followed. In March 2019, on the same aircraft—not the same one, but the same model—157 people were killed. What went wrong? It was failure of software. We fight with software all the time, but failure of software when you have passengers has been proven to be very difficult.

I had a look at the French one in the Caribbean, because I knew it was different from the Boeing example. The situation there was a weather condition. The flight was on 1 June 2019, as the plane headed towards a thunderstorm. The pitot head froze—the instrument on the front of the aircraft that measures the speed and height of the aircraft. The net result was that the instrument recorded inaccurately what the status of the aircraft was, the aircraft stalled and all the passengers were killed. So that is where I am coming from in relation to this Bill, where safety is stated to be at its core.

Let us leave the airline world and go on to the implications for drivers. The lessons learned from those aircraft crashes are, first, that drivers must be trained. It is quite a challenge—and we know that there is a whole variety of abilities of those driving on the road today. I do not know the answer to that question, other than that it is a question that has to be asked.

Then there are what they call “uncommanded activations”: software that suddenly says something to you when you have not put it into a programme, or you did not think you had, and you have to decide what to do. That is the partial one that is a challenge. Then there are the potential alerts: if you are half in control, or not in control, are those alerts recognised? Fourthly, as I have already indicated, there are weather conditions, which change dramatically in our country. There was heavy frost in Bedfordshire the day before yesterday, and all the instruments on the car had to be cleaned. On the car that I drove here today, I had to clean the camera for reversing. So weather conditions do affect things.

We also know, from the very good briefing from the Library, the history from California at this point in time. We need to recognise that the States are way ahead of us: they have been doing it that much longer. They have had these vehicles going around San Francisco, but in one paragraph the head of firefighting services says that

“driverless cars had interfered with emergency services 40 times since … 2020”.

Then there is another paragraph about San Francisco, which is very relevant—any of us who have been to San Francisco will know that it is all up hill and down dale. There are examples of where

“the cars have run red lights, crashed into a bus, blocked pedestrian crossings and cycle lanes and caused traffic jams”, et cetera. I give a final quote:

“The California Department of Motor Vehicles states that as of 10 November 2023 it had received 673 autonomous vehicle collision reports”.

Well, if safety is primary to this legislation, that is not a very good start, is it?

Now I turn to the Bill itself. I will not go through the varying stages that have been discussed already, but seven years have gone by—quite a long time—before we get around to this Bill. Here we are after seven years, and the fact of the matter is that we as a country have fallen behind. We were in the vanguard seven years ago; we are not in the vanguard any more but in the guard’s van, almost, in terms of technical development, et cetera. We ought to make sure that we know what other people have done so far before we start spending a lot of government money just mirroring tests that others have done. I believe that is a very important point. I would like to know from my noble friend, not necessarily this evening but in writing, how much the taxpayer has already spent on this project.

What about the context for authorised automated vehicles? Who ensures that those vehicles actually stick to the restrictions that some of them have apparently been given? If the restriction is the motorway, who will ensure that it sticks to the motorway? I do not know the answer. What is the estimated cost of updating the digital information across the whole road network in GB? We talk about that and it was in my noble friend’s opening statement that this all applies to GB, but we certainly do not have that digital information at this point in time.

What work is being done on the current driving test? I have a granddaughter who is studying the Highway Code and everything else, having driving lessons. At what point will that age group, those young people, be brought in, so that at least the Highway Code is brought up to date? For me, Clause 2 at the moment is really pie in the sky. It says:

“The principles must be framed with a view to securing that road safety in Great Britain will be better as a result of the use of authorised automated vehicles on roads”.

Well, what did I see on the way down this morning? I do not know exactly how many cars there are on the road, but it cannot be far short of 1 million. Then there are hundreds of lorries and possibly millions of cyclists, few of whom know what the Highway Code is. One has only to see what happens out the front here. They do not stop at that pedestrian crossing with the red light; they just cycle right through it. Then there are the delivery bikes with very creative motorcyclists who weave in and out. Then there are the scooters. Believe it or not, in Bedfordshire, the week before last, the driver who is taking me back tonight said to me, “You won’t believe this, Michael, but a motorised skateboard overtook me the other day in a 20 mph zone”. I said, “God, I don’t believe it”, and Barry said, “Not just that: further up, he picks up a passenger and comes back the other way”. These are not even licensed, but they are very dangerous. I do not know where all this fits in.

Finally, there is the question of potholes, as even the Prime Minister admits. I do not know whether AI can work out whether there is a pothole underneath a big puddle, but it is a problem. Weather conditions and potholes affect driveability and, as we know, driving skills vary. In my judgment, for once, we should learn from others. My repeated request to His Majesty’s Government is that, before we spend too much money on it, we find out what Germany, Sweden and particularly the United States have been doing, and pull that together—then we might have the basis of a Bill.

This is a 100-clause Bill—I note this to the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley—and we have to get the framework there but, just for once, we should be strong-minded. I was in business for years. We should stick to the jobs that we are good at: synthetic fuels for aviation, hydrogen and electric vehicles, as mentioned. We have plenty of work to do there. I am sceptical about the need for the Bill at this time. We are not in the vanguard. If safety really is the core, we should proceed very measuredly.

Photo of Baroness Bennett of Manor Castle Baroness Bennett of Manor Castle Green 5:21, 28 November 2023

My Lords, in following the noble Lord, Lord Naseby, I will start by reflecting on some of the safety issues he raised and pick up in particular a phrase the Minister used in his introductory speech—that the introduction of self-driving cars could mean that the lack of human error saves lives.

Automation does not remove human error. It simply changes the potential site of it from an individual vehicle to a programming system, an algorithm and the control system applied to many vehicles. There is the potential for one error to be multiplied many times, with disastrous impacts. It also allows individual actions, possibly malevolent ones, to produce mass effects. A number of noble Lords referred to what has happened with people running around with traffic cones in San Francisco. We are speaking just a couple of weeks after the National Cyber Security Centre produced its seventh annual review, noting that the UK’s critical infrastructure is at grave risk. By relying on this single system, or multiple systems, we are potentially creating a much higher critical safety risk and a resilience risk.

This morning I was talking about climate adaptation and resilience with the National Trust. We need to look at all this in terms of our systems. If we rely on these systems and keep using them for years, what will happen to the skills of drivers should we suddenly need individual people to take to the road and control vehicles? What happens, as we have seen in San Francisco, if they all suddenly stop working or decide to assemble in one place? What does that do to the functioning of our society?

I was going to start with the Bonn climate talks, COP 23, in 2017. I recall a state of near panic among members of the climate community because it was thought that we could see self-driving HGVs all over the place any day soon. That could have massive climate impacts as they now spend a large amount of their time parked up because their drivers need rest periods and there is limited availability of drivers. If you put self-driving into the equation, you potentially massively increase the climate impacts. That was 2017, and there is actually much less fear now.

I begin my contribution today by making a call for realism and an understanding of what this Bill is actually about and the environment in which it arrives. I have already challenged the noble Baroness, Lady Penn, when she was wearing the Treasury hat. A government spokesperson briefed the Telegraph that this Bill would mean that we could see self-driving vehicles on our roads by 2026,

“if they were proved safe”.

When I challenged her, the noble Baroness, Lady Penn, being the skilled operator that she is, agreed that yes, if they were proved safe, this would be possible. Well, I might run a two-hour marathon if I were 30 years younger and had entirely different genetics, but that is not the world that we live in. I am asking for an acknowledgement of the realism of the situation as we conduct our debate going forward on this Bill.

I start with a potential positive impact if we were to see self-driving vehicles, even operating in small areas in controlled circumstances—which I think is a far more likely possibility. One study I looked at noted that, for self-driving vehicles to operate effectively:

“Roads may need to be kept free of small debris” and “uneven” surfaces smoothed. A number of noble Lords have already referred to the current state of our roads. Let us imagine that we are going to go ahead with self-driving autonomous vehicles. Just think about what our roads might look like for the rest of us to enjoy. However, I ask for a little realism here. Do we actually have the capacity—the financial, human skills or machinery capacity—to deliver roads entirely free of debris and uneven surfaces? I rather doubt it.

This raises an important point, as mentioned by the noble Baroness, Lady Bowles, that I want to highlight and which we will come to in the detail of our later debate: we need to think about statistics and data. The road conditions in the US, France and Australia are very different from here. Can we extrapolate figures on safety from there and apply them here? If we cannot, how do we get figures at scale in the UK? That is a terribly important point.

I am not sure that anyone has directly referred to this, but it is worth noting the issue of safety. The Transport Select Committee has looked at this in some detail and I think we are going to have large debates on this at a later stage. Is the careful and competent human driver the right test to be applying? Improved safety is not a given in the real circumstances of our roads. As the RAC Foundation has said:

“When we put our lives in the hands of automated machinery, we expect it to perform to the highest standards of safety”.

That is an expectation that people have. We know that human beings make mistakes, and we know that, as pedestrians, cyclists and other drivers, we make allowances for other peoples’ mistakes. However, we are not necessarily going to apply the same criteria to autonomous vehicles.

This debate has moved as we have progressed through. A number of the early speeches were very much focused on the positive opportunities seen in autonomous vehicles. The noble Lord, Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth, was one of those people. However, I want to address some policy points about the environmental risks of self-driving or autonomous cars.

If as a result of such cars we see more vehicles on our roads and more and longer journeys, we could see increased emissions. I think most of us assume that these will be electric vehicles, but about half of the PM2.5—small particulate matter pollution from vehicles —comes from brakes and tyres. Autonomous vehicles still have brakes and tyres. There are the congestion issues; there is also the noise and the sheer disruption caused by vehicles moving around our roads.

There is some real data on this from partially autonomous vehicles. In 2019, a study in California found that the owners of partially autonomous vehicles were taking them on longer journeys, particularly at weekends. That makes sense when you think about it: you can put your feet up, play a computer game, read or have a sleep, and so you decide that you are going to take a long weekend trip to the other end of the UK. If lots of people do that, it has a real and significant environmental and social impact.

There is another risk. Let us imagine the situation with the theatre up the road, when lots of people have an autonomous vehicle. It costs heaps to park in the city but, as you do not need to park an autonomous vehicle, they decide to get their cars to drive them to the theatre and then send them home again. They then call their car when they want to leave in the evening. Can noble Lords think about what Charing Cross Road might look like under those circumstances? What kind of chaos would it cause and what might it do to the buses?

I turn to an issue that no one has raised but which is really important, because we need to look at many areas beyond autonomous vehicles. There is a temptation to think of the cloud and algorithms as being immaterial and that things that happen out there in the cloud have no real-world, physical consequences. Actually, we can thank researchers from MIT—Sudhakar et al, in an article published in the IEEE Micro journal—for calculating, using and processing the data and algorithms to find out what the environmental cost could be. I hope that noble Lords will forgive me for putting in some large numbers.

Data centres now produce 0.3% of global climate change emissions; that is the same as Argentina. The MIT study shows that, if the world introduced a billion autonomous vehicles, the demand for energy for those data centres would double. It adds that

“if an autonomous vehicle has 10 deep neural networks processing images from 10 cameras, and … drives for one hour a day, it will make 21.6 million inferences each day. One billion vehicles would make 21.6 quadrillion inferences. To put that into perspective, all of Facebook’s data centers … make a few trillion inferences each day … 1 quadrillion is 1,000 trillion”.

Take the numbers away and that is a huge demand for energy, computing power and all the technology, computers and databases, so where will we find the capacity in the world to deliver that? We still have children in Africa who do not have a lightbulb to do their homework at night and areas of India that need the most basic levels of infrastructure. We need to look at all this in that policy context.

I will bring up two more points. The noble Lord, Lord Cameron of Dillington, made a really disturbing suggestion: we might have to bring in anti-jaywalking laws to allow for autonomous vehicles. What are our economy and society for? Are we here to serve the needs of people or are we here to service the machines? That is a question that the noble Lord’s point raises.

The noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe, raised an important issue that might be seen as explicitly excluded from the scope of the Bill: delivery vehicles and drones. They are examples of autonomous systems that may not use the roads but that multinational companies see as replacing human beings in delivering goods while using lots of our public spaces, including the air and pavements. Can the Minister tell us now or by letter later—I understand that it might not be in his briefing—what the Government’s thinking is about ensuring the regulation of those?

Finally, that brings me to reinforce the point about the need for this all to be inclusive by design, made by both the noble Baroness, Lady Brinton, and the noble Lord, Lord Holmes. We need to think about how our streets, pavements and airspace work for people, not for the benefits of multinational companies and their machines.

Photo of Lord Moylan Lord Moylan Chair, Built Environment Committee, Chair, Built Environment Committee 5:34, 28 November 2023

My Lords, it is a pleasure to speak after the noble Baroness. Before I come to my main remarks, I have a question for my noble friend the Minister arising from something he said in his introduction. He referred to the scope of the Bill covering England, Scotland and Wales and said that if these vehicles crossed the border into Northern Ireland, they would not benefit from its provisions. I wanted to ask him what border he was referring to, because as far as vehicle regulation is concerned, there is, as I understand it, no border and Northern Ireland is subject to the vehicle regulations in operation in this country. Was it a slip of the tongue or an implication that autonomous vehicles if introduced into Northern Ireland would be subject to the undemocratically made laws of the European Union—undemocratic, that is, as far as their application to Northern Ireland is concerned, whose people, of course, have no say in the legislature which will be making those laws? I would be grateful for his elucidation on that. I am perfectly happy to accept that it was a slip of the tongue and that would end the whole matter, but there may be something behind it he would like to reveal.

On the Bill itself, the substance of my remarks is that this is a piece of work from the Law Commission and is, in essence, to do with warranty, liability and insurance, which is why I thought I would have very little to say which was germane to the text. However, I find that most noble Lords have had very little to say about those issues and we have wandered—I think very properly and inevitably—into a broader debate about the desirability of automated vehicles and their consequences for other road users.

I have great interest in that because during much of my life I have been involved in urban design. I am particularly interested in the urban consequences— I am less interested in what happens on motorways—and how our cities are shaped. I have to admit—I would be in the naughty corner, no doubt, for this—that I have been a great advocate for and implementer of shared spaces, which I would characterise in very different language to that used by my noble friend Lord Holmes of Richmond and the noble Baroness, Lady Brinton.

Let me offer a few thoughts to add to this pile of imponderables that the Bill has given rise to this afternoon. As I say, most of them relate to the way in which cities work. First, I accept on the basis of my experience of railways that it is likely that these vehicles will be safer than those driven by a human. Anyone who doubts this would not get on a Victoria line train, for example; they would take the Piccadilly line on every occasion. The Victoria line train is driven by computers; the Piccadilly line train is driven—currently, sadly, because there is not enough money—by a human being. But which one arrives with a minute interval between each train, safely, every time? Which is the one that can carry those people because of that frequency, that huge capacity, on the Victoria line and which has a three or four-minute interval between trains because the driver cannot stop as safely as the computer-driven trains?

It is worth saying—with every possible respect to my noble friend Lord Naseby—that the comparison with aviation is not appropriate. Rail safety is based on the principle that if something is missing, if something goes wrong or if something is not quite right in the system, the train comes to a stop. The system stops. The electricity is cut off. That cannot possibly be the basis of aviation safety. If something goes missing, you cannot just stop the plane at 30,000 feet and say: “We are going to work out what has gone wrong”. Aviation safety is all about building in all the safety measures from the outset before the plane ever takes off and making sure that they are working. It is a totally different approach. I am assuming that automated vehicles would operate similarly to the rail principle; that is, if something was missing and they could not see something, they would stop. This might cause inconvenience—as indeed it causes inconvenience if a train on the Victoria line stops and people have to work out what has gone wrong—but it is at least a safety measure and a relatively reliable one.

I am very concerned about the point made about the consequences for streetscapes of jaywalking made by the noble Lord, Lord Cameron of Dillington, and to some extent referred to by my noble friend Lord Borwick. We have spent years trying to take railings out of cities and allowing people to cross streets in a more natural, human sort of way—to move away from the Le Corbusier dystopia that arose from separating vehicles and pedestrians at every level. It was a perpetual Barbican vision of our cities. We have moved away from that, and people who want to see it in operation can go to places such as Piccadilly. Only a few years ago, it was a one-way motorway with barriers all along it, and it has been returned to a calm and more attractive street running two ways without all those barriers and so forth.

As the noble Lord rightly pointed out, the very fact that you can walk in front of an automated vehicle, confident that it will stop, means that the manufacturers will quickly say, “We can’t be having that. We will have to have the barriers back. We’re going to have to have designated crossing places for pedestrians, and we will have to have laws that stop them walking out in front of the cars”. That risk balance will have changed. I do not walk out in front of cars generally when they are moving, because I worry that they may hit me, but if I know for a certainty they will stop, what is to prevent me? I will just cross the road. As my noble friend Lord Borwick said, if you are a six year-old, the fun may go out of it after three attempts, but that is not my circumstance. I am not doing it for fun, I am doing it to cross the road, and I shall do it exactly as I want. The noble Baroness, Lady Bennett of Manor Castle, was right to make that point.

The next thing I want to say is about congestion and the consequences for public transport. We are talking about automated vehicles as if they are going to be private possessions. Of course, there is an alternative vision where automated vehicles are communally or corporately owned. They are pods, and they do not belong to you. You summon them like an Uber and they arrive, take you somewhere and then park, vanish or find another passenger somewhere. That is an alternative model. Let us imagine 80 of those lined up nose to tail, very safely moving along Piccadilly from Hyde Park Corner up to Piccadilly Circus, each containing an individual passenger—and bang close to each other because it will be very safe, for the reasons I explained. It will be 80 passengers moving up Piccadilly. What is the difference between that and a bus? A bus takes 80 passengers from one end of Piccadilly to another. I know noble Lords will say, “Ah, but these pods, when they get to Piccadilly Circus, they can split off and all go in different directions. They can take you to your office, the hairdresser or wherever you want to go in that vicinity”. That illustrates what automated vehicles are really addressing, which is the last-mile problem rather than the main trunk problem of transport. It is to get that last mile from the hub that you want a vehicle to be available to take you, but not necessarily all the way along the journey. Why would we be encouraged to do that, given both the effects on congestion and the possible consequence of a collapse in demand—not a total collapse—for public transport?

Finally, what will happen to traffic lights and why are we still investing in them? I think it is public knowledge—I know it to be true—that Transport for London is planning to spend a very large amount upgrading its extremely comprehensive traffic light system that it has rolled out over the years, which still depends on the SCOOT software technology that has been in use for at least 20 years and possibly longer. It is thinking of spending a large amount of money upgrading them, but why will anyone ever need traffic lights? Automated vehicles do not need them. They are there for people such as me to look at something terrestrial in front of them, and see that it is green, red, orange or whatever. If their motion is dependent on their sensing where other vehicles are, together with communication with a satellite at the same time, they will not need traffic lights. What will happen to traffic lights?

I am against traffic lights on the whole. They are a complete misery, of course—we all know that. However, they have some uses—for example, helping people to cross the roads at junctions. What are the consequences for that and for the money that we are still spending, even today, on upgrading our traffic light system if we are moving over to an automated vehicle system?

I am speaking quite late in the debate and there are one or two very interesting speakers to follow. I have a feeling that my noble friend the Minister will not be able to deal with all the questions that we have put to him. I look forward to a more detailed response in writing to some of them, although he may be able to answer the Northern Ireland one. A lot might arise in Committee that I did not expect and there may be amendments that test the scope of the Bill a little. I look forward to them.

Photo of Lord Hampton Lord Hampton Crossbench 5:45, 28 November 2023

My Lords, it is a pleasure to follow the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett of Manor Castle, and the very entertaining speech from the noble Lord, Lord Moylan, and to speak to your Lordships with a real sense of optimism over the Bill. In doing so, I declare an interest: my wife works for Amazon. Neither of us has any privileged information on operations in this sector but I suspect that Amazon, along with many others, will be taking a keen interest in the passage of the Bill.

I am really excited about the Bill. I have no expert knowledge in the field, but the Bill will profoundly affect us all. We are all passengers and pedestrians, and most of us are drivers, cyclists and users of online shopping websites. As we have heard, the Government have forecast that the automated vehicle sector could capture up to £42 billion by 2035. In this, they might be being cautious. It is also a good news story that as a nation we are so strong in this sector, the UK being a global thought leader on regulating AVs, according to Oxa.

We have already heard that we need to act quickly to avoid falling behind countries that have got off the starting grid quicker than us. We are looking at a landscape where, according to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, much of the on and off-road logistics and road passenger transport could be automated, particularly in rural areas, with a big impact on agriculture, mining and defence as well. The utopian dream is that the automatic vehicles blend seamlessly with our traffic systems, safely and efficiently working to reduce pollution, road rage and accidents, and allowing skilled workers to be deployed elsewhere. Obviously, the dystopian view is of robot vehicles crashing into each other and causing gridlock and mass unemployment while AI systems take over a post-apocalyptic dying planet. The main difficulty for the Bill is that it is trying to legislate for so much that we do not yet understand. I think that it does a pretty good job of it.

I would like some help from the Minister in clarifying a few questions that I have on the Bill. I am a lay man, so I apologise if my questions seem obvious to everyone else. I am a teacher and I always tell my students never to be afraid to ask a question if you do not understand, because I can guarantee that there are always at least two others in the room who do not know the answer either. I hope that one of them here is not the Minister.

Like many others, my paramount concern about the Bill is safety. Although the Minister said that it is baked in, the suspicion is that cyclists and pedestrians would disproportionately bear the brunt of casualties from the initial trials of the vehicles. In this I share Cycling UK’s concern that the safety bar is too low in that the definition of safety for a vehicle that travels autonomously is “acceptable” rather than “high”, and the definition of it travelling legally is if it travels at a “very low risk” of committing a traffic infraction. Therefore, tightening up the safety element of this is vital. However, I am not sure that the idea of the noble Lord, Lord Cameron of Dillington, to ban jaywalkers quite works. I am an inveterate jaywalker and I will fight him on that one—although I have to say, from my daily observations from the top deck of buses in the City, that my fellow cyclists could help themselves by not running so many red lights.

My other big concern is actually who is in charge of the vehicle. The concept of a user-in-charge seems to be the very worst of all worlds, as mentioned by the noble Earl, Lord Lytton. Having a driver in the cab who may be called on at any time seems to have all the risks and costs of traditional driving with very little benefit. We are surely aiming at no-user-in-charge, but here things get complicated for the lay man.

What is an authorised self-driving entity, who will be responsible for the way that the vehicle drives and meeting other regulatory obligations? Each authorised automated vehicle must have one. Every ASDE is an entity but it is not made clear, at least to me, what that is. The licensed operator is described as being similar to a bus operator, but the nuts and bolts of who controls what and how are not spelled out. Are fleets of vehicles going to be controlled by one person like a minicab company and, if so, what checks are being made on the person’s or team’s competence, state of mind and health to do such a vital job? Are they going to be more like air traffic controllers, in which case how are they to be trained and examined? Will they be subject to random alcohol and drugs tests? Will they need medicals? Perhaps the Minister can shed some light.

The purpose of a safety inspector is to identify, improve the understanding of, and reduce the risk of automated vehicle incidents through conducting a safety investigation. The Marine Accident Investigation Branch is cited as an example, but I am led to believe that bus operators, certainly in London, investigate their own incidents. Is the plan to get bus operators in line with train and air operators, as the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, alluded to?

Self-driving vehicles need an accurate and up-to-date understanding of the road and to know the legal parameters of the network. Traffic regulation orders will be provided via a common publication platform. Is this feasible? Will it be available for other services, so that an Uber driver, for instance, can at last navigate the low-traffic neighbourhoods of Hackney to get me to my house?

I realise that with automation comes the fear of unemployment, although the APPG on Self-driving Vehicles claims that AVs will create over 38,000 new green jobs—but that is a subject for another day. I am excited by the future the Bill could lead us to. Overall, it is very logical and well thought-out, and I look forward to hearing the Minister’s comments on my various points.

Photo of Lord Lucas Lord Lucas Conservative 5:52, 28 November 2023

My Lords, I do not have any problems in principle with the Bill at all, but I look forward greatly to Committee, given all the speeches I have listened to—we will have a lively time of it. My contributions will be on vehicle identification. Number plates clearly will not do, as there are millions of infractions. Lots of cars drive around with no MoT or insurance, and some are completely untraceable; we cannot rely on that system when it comes to automated vehicles. Automated vehicles need a different kind of identification anyway; they need to communicate a lot, they will need to include that identity in their communication and, as the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett of Manor Castle, said, we cannot let that system be hacked—that will need to be baked into the hardware. Therefore, you will need a set of international standards.

I emphasise to my noble friend the importance of being in the lead on international standards—it really gives you a grip on an industry. Look at what has happened in telecommunications. When I was young, we had GEC and Plessey and we were top of the world. We have lost that now, and one of the reasons we did not manage to hold on to even a bit of it is that we let the whole business of standards slip. The work we were doing on standards in this country was no longer thought important, no longer given emphasis, and therefore people in this country really did not have a grip on what was going on and where the industry was moving. Standards are absolutely the core of this and we really should put effort into the standards that are going to be embedded in automated vehicles, for they are many and they are really important, and identification is very much one of them.

As the noble Lord, Lord Cameron of Dillington, said, interaction with the police—my noble friend Lord Naseby expanded that to the emergency services generally—will rely a lot on communication. Policemen must have a way of talking to an automated vehicle, and the automated vehicle will want to make sure that that person is a policeman. This is a two-way system; at the base of it are standards. It is really important that the Government get this right.

I also hope to make sure during the Bill’s passage that, where we have a system of automated vehicles for general hire, the information on what vehicles are where and what they will cost is available universally to customers. We should not get into a system where people are confined to the particular operators they may have the app for. They ought to have access to universal information.

Data will be important. As my noble friend Lord Holmes of Richmond said, we need to have access to all the data so that we can understand what is going on and make sure that we are into a self-improving system and not developing areas of dystopia. At the same time, we have commercial confidentiality and value in the data; its governance will be really important.

In the short term most of these vehicles will charge at a depot, but that will not last. They will want to use public charging stations, so we have to look ahead. We have to be part of developing a standard for how an automated vehicle can charge any old where. Then we will have to start putting those charging stations in well ahead of demand. Again, it is about thinking ahead and standards.

I will delight the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, by saying that we ought to look at automated vehicles on rail. Looking at what is happening on the periphery of the network—the sort of place I live—having a train every half an hour is not an efficient use of a dedicated corridor. If we had automated vehicles running in the same space, they could run when people wanted them to. They could just be there: you would get on when you arrived at the station, and it would stop at the station you want it to stop at. You would start to get a much more efficient system of transporting, using a space we already have and which is free of humans and cyclists. It is much easier to program for. I am not saying that it would do on the core network, but it would absolutely do on the peripheral network. It would be a really efficient way of reviving redundant rail lines, because you would not even need to install rails; you could just use ordinary wheels and tyres, and what remains of the railbed would carry a road very cheaply, as long as you were not running heavy trucks on it.

I am really concerned about the systems for reporting on the condition of the vehicle being effective and quick, and resulting in it being taken off the road and maintained speedily. It is not clear to me how the Bill will work in that area.

I listened carefully to what the noble Earl, Lord Lytton, said about road design, AVs being able to signal to others that they are AVs, and safe roads. We ought to be able to license AV to go just on the roads that are safe for them to use, not the ones where we know they will run into difficulties. I do not doubt that the noble Earl will table amendments on all these aspects. I shall be there to take a close interest in them.

The aspects of safety mentioned by the noble Baroness, Lady Bowles of Berkhamsted, and the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, were absolutely on point. If we are to define safety, which has such a crucial place in this Bill, it has to be an effective and practical definition. We really have to understand how it works. The current wording is just too indefinite and imprecise. Does it effectively rule these out for 10 years, or does it allow anything? It is just not clear at the moment. Insurance will obviously be an important area; people such as cyclists and pedestrians who do not carry their own insurance need an easy, quick way of getting compensated when they are hurt by an AV. We need to keep the sort of model we have for being injured by a vehicle at the moment, and make sure that it applies to an AV in all circumstances.

Noble Lords will not be surprised that I will be pursuing the general question of automated vehicles and Eastbourne. People have talked about AVs in the middle of London; I do not think that is the best place to start with them. Somewhere like Eastbourne, where public transport does not work, you can use AVs to make public transport happen. We should be able to move away from being the town with the highest proportion of short vehicle journeys to one that is much more reliant on public transport, because automated vehicles should make that economic. We can also start to look after tourists much better, getting them out to the neighbouring attractions and around the countryside, and enabling bicycling and disabled access and other things, which are really difficult to do with current systems. It is the opportunities that I see, not the disadvantages of cluttering up Piccadilly, and which I really hope to pursue in Committee.

Photo of Lord Ranger of Northwood Lord Ranger of Northwood Conservative 6:01, 28 November 2023

My Lords, it is a great pleasure to take part in my first Second Reading debate, and to follow my noble friend Lord Lucas. I was not going to mention it, but he raised the issue of standards, which is critical, although we should never let a standard stand in the way of innovation. I take that lesson from my time in industry. A long time ago, when we were working on the platform to deliver the Oyster card, a European standard was going to come through on how contactless technology could work. There was a debate about whether we should wait for that standard. Most people were saying that we should, as it would allow interoperability across Europe. I had other thoughts: that it could take a significant amount of time and delay the programme. We pushed through and used our standard. At the end of the day, if we had waited, we could have been waiting the best part of a decade for that standard to be ratified—something to consider as we look at standards and the speed of innovation.

As I say, it is a great pleasure to take part in this debate. I acknowledge my interests, particularly as a board member of techUK and a senior executive at Atos. My noble friend Lord Moylan and I share many transport-related interests from our time at City Hall and working with TfL, and I will echo a number of the comments that he made. The immense amount of work that I acknowledge the Law Commission has put in over the last four years is demonstrated by the quality of the Bill, but it does focus on legislation and is quite narrow on some things. That is why we meander across to other areas such as usage, and maybe even more so the commercialisation of the technology.

To balance things out, I did take note of other reports, such as the excellent report by the APPG for Self-Driving Vehicles, The economic, environmental, and safety benefits of self-driving vehicles, techUK’s consultation with industry and what it sees as opportunities, and Innovate UK’s report on connected and automated mobility. All of these look at innovation and opportunity in particular, alongside the need for safety.

I will take noble Lords back a little bit to an early point in my career in 2008, when I first drove an electric vehicle in San Francisco, in California, which has been mentioned a few times in this debate. I was there and driving it because it was new technology, because of the obvious issue of sustainability, and because it was exciting. We saw then the potential of this technology. It was undefined—I think they were still using laptop batteries stuck together in the boots of these cars, the early Tesla Roadsters—but there was such potential.

That was the point when we realised at City Hall in London that we would establish the London Electric Vehicle Partnership to look at the potential of this new technology—not just through the prism of legislation, but we would identify challenges in collaboration with industry, policymakers and manufacturers, so that we could understand the challenges, the operational designs that would be required, the infrastructure requirements and the potential commercial models that would be appropriate. It would still take time for this to come to the fore, but some of what we see in the adoption of electric vehicles in the UK was based way back then in our collaborative approach with industry and how we developed policy. In the deliberations on the Bill we should work extensively with industry around its developments and thoughts, as well as internationally on how use cases have been developed for automated vehicles.

I would like to highlight various comments made by the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett, about some of the challenges that may occur. This is not an either/or solution as technology moves forward and we move towards a digital society. I can be a slight use case here. I have one car now whereas, with two children and a wife, we may have had two cars in years gone by. I can honestly say that my second car is an Uber because I have moved to that flexible mode of technology and it provides an element in the multimodal mix that I use. Travelling to various parts, I will potentially walk to a metro station, then take an Uber at the other end and take a bus when possible. We are looking at the maturity of the mix and where these automated vehicles could play in the mix and, I hope, not add to the vehicle fleet but become part of it and reduce the need for people to own their own vehicles.

I feel great confidence in the technology. The reason I say that, to be fair, is that the technology is already here. It is being used and tested. We quite rightly have a focus on the safety element and how we will ensure that we can convince the public that this is safe to use. That is the priority because safety leads to confidence, confidence leads to adoption, and that will be the success. That will lead to other areas of innovation because the tip of the iceberg is what this technology will do to the transport mix and to general industries across the board.

My noble friend Lord Moylan mentioned pods. What will they become? Here I would like to make an analogy with the smartphone. We can think of these automated vehicles as the equivalent of where the smartphone has now taken what used to be a phone. There will be apps and different commercial ways of using them. All kinds of services will be developed that we possibly cannot even imagine right now, but they will benefit personal mobility as well as public mobility; safety, inclusivity and sustainability will be increased. They are all within our grasp through the development of this technology. Let us not forget that if we look at mobile phone technology, we saw acceleration in the ability to ensure connectivity and avoid bugs in the system, but when we look at that technology, on which life almost depends, we do not find those difficulties as much as we thought.

I am hugely supportive of the Bill, if noble Lords could not tell already. I look forward to taking part in Committee. There are many lessons for us to learn. I ask the Minister that we look at how EV operating models have developed because—my noble friend Lord Lucas highlighted this—there will be much synergy between electric vehicles, the usage of electric vehicle technology and automated vehicles. It remains unsaid whether they will be together as a technology. They may still be separated, but the win for us will be when the technologies merge and therefore their operating models will have some alignment.

Finally, on use cases around non-user involvement with the technology, we need to look at separating this more from the user-included technology approach. There will be more use cases around the non-user approach than the user approach. When reading the Bill, I thought that part was something we could look at separating further and digging into more; I look forward to doing that in Committee.

Photo of Baroness Randerson Baroness Randerson Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (Transport) 6:09, 28 November 2023

My Lords, this has been a really excellent debate. I start by making clear that I welcome the Bill, especially since, as the noble Lord, Lord Naseby, pointed out, other countries have been getting ahead of us on this issue. The noble Lord, Lord Moylan, expressed concern that Northern Ireland would obey the same rules as the Republic of Ireland because they were EU rules but, actually, the international context is heaps bigger than that. This is all in a massive international context.

So the Bill is welcome. It is based, of course, on the work of the Law Commissions, which have provided firm legal foundations. As others have said, there is huge economic significance in the successful rollout of automated vehicles. For that to happen, and be successful, we need high levels of public trust and confidence in safety. Hopefully, once we have in due course persuaded the Minister to accept some of our amendments, we will have a robust legal and safety framework that clarifies responsibility for self-driving vehicles, establishes new safety requirements and an inspection and reporting system, and provides confidence in data ownership and security. Those issues have been raised time and again in this debate.

If this works properly, AVs should greatly increase the safety on our roads, but there are plenty of issues along the way in the transitional phases, many of which have been raised here today. The experience in San Francisco, California is very relevant in this respect because it points out that, even in a city with much wider, straighter roads that are basically in a heaps better state than British roads, there can be considerable, and unforeseen, obstacles.

In Britain we have very crowded, mainly poorly maintained roads. That will intensify the issues. There will be many decades when AVs share the road with traditional human drivers. There have been problems in San Francisco with that. Emergency services have been impeded because AVs do not yet have human sensitivity. If we hear a siren or see a blue light somewhere, a long way away, we can all anticipate that it will be something we have to deal with; we will have to get out of the way. It seems clear that AVs in San Francisco have not yet quite got to that point.

Much of the Bill is taken up with issues of legal responsibility—for example, at what I call the handover point between the automated driving and the human driver. The Bill is complex and technical. It introduces a whole new lexicon, which is hardly consumer friendly. It might be designed to provide legal certainty but it does not enhance driver understanding. The Government need to consider what needs to be done to ensure that, in due course, drivers understand the legal points involved, especially in relation to insurance.

There are implications in all this for us during the long transition period, leading up to that point in the future when all vehicles will be automated. I want to point out two aspects: there will be some AVs driving among human drivers from the near future onwards; there will also be vehicles that are partially automated, as many are already. The noble Earl, Lord Lytton, recounted some stories that had a resonance with me as the owner of a car that I regard as more complex than the one I had before, because it tries to do things for me that I think I can do okay on my own. I sometimes think that nowadays you need a driver and a co-driver to handle the technology. The serious point about it is that this halfway house in many cars now exists and we are dealing with it on a day-to-day basis.

For the revolution to happen we need, first, a giant database of all the road signs and regulations in every part of the UK. This in itself is a massive task, because the Government have been moving away from absolute direction to local authorities on road signs. I will give the House one example: in 2016, the specifications for the signs for a ford were removed, so that any old sign will do for telling a driver that there is a ford coming up. I happen to know about this. I put a proposal to reinstate the regulations on fords into a Private Member’s Bill ballot, but I did not get anywhere with it. The point is that, for safety reasons, there are good arguments for having proper, regulated sizes for those signs.

The Government have also recently removed some of the pressure on local authorities to introduce regulations to make it safer for walking and cycling. This “We are the driver’s friend” rhetoric means that there will be fewer regulations that encourage walking and cycling, so the Government are going to have to turn their rhetoric on its head to encourage local authorities to take part in this giant gathering of data. It will of course involve a cost to local authorities, and I notice that there is no financial impact on them included in this.

I referred to a giant database, but it is not just about local authorities. All AVs and the cars that already exist with some self-driving features, such as those that park themselves, are all of course collecting data on us every time we drive them. This in itself has privacy implications, personal safety implications and national security implications. It poses questions on anonymisation of data, on the rights of individuals in respect of personal data, on the retention of data and the disclosure of personal data to insurers. I am sure there are some other things as well that I have not thought of.

My noble friend Lady Bowles concentrated on the implications of data control in the industry and the danger of dominance by big companies. She alerted us to the complex issues in the insurance industry and those associated with access to commercially useful data. My noble friend Lady Brinton also raised concerns about the protection of personal data and the issue of sale of data. Both the noble Lord, Lord Holmes, and my noble friend Lady Brinton raised potential problems for disabled people and the need to build disability access into regulations from the start. These issues are not apparently tackled in the Bill, along with issues associated with human behaviour—for example, the difference between the fastest among us to respond to a call to hand over from automatic driving to human driving and the slowest. Those slowest may have been paying full attention but just respond slightly more slowly.

We need to think about another issue: if you regularly use a car that fully drives itself, you will get out of the habit of driving. Will there be a requirement for drivers to have refresher courses on driving if they have not done it for the last month or year because their car has done it for them? I think this will crop up.

We will in due course want to press the Minister on the rather confusing division of responsibilities between various government agencies, as listed in the Government’s proposals.

Finally, I want to deal with the Minister’s introduction, which referred to trial schemes. There is a giant leap from those very limited trial schemes to the transition period. Make no mistake, we are in the foothills of a massive revolution; we are in the foothills of a change in which we will lose many types of jobs that involve driving. There will be a complete revolution, I believe, in public transport and in ownership of vehicles. For public confidence to be maintained during this revolution, we need the Government to invest in the new skills that will be needed—there will be lots of new skills needed —and the training for them.

We have had a division between the enthusiasts, the realists and the doubters. I look forward to our debate on amendments.

Photo of Lord Liddle Lord Liddle Shadow Spokesperson (Transport) 6:23, 28 November 2023

My Lords, I first make it clear that the Opposition—the Labour Party—support the principle of this measure, although as we have seen in this debate, there is a wide-ranging set of issues that arises, which I dare say that the civil servants who have been listening will be busily examining over the coming days. We are looking forward to a somewhat extended Committee stage, if some of these issues are judged within the scope of the Bill. It will also be a very entertaining one if we continue to have contributions such as those from the noble Lord, Lord Naseby, and some of the other noble Lords who have spoken.

Why do we support the Bill? It is because we desperately need to move forward in this country to try to raise our rate of economic growth. One of the most obvious ways of doing this is by harnessing, through successful commercial exploitation, the advances in science and technology for which we, as a country, are renowned. So this is part of a big agenda that is crucial to our future prosperity.

We do have a real problem. I will put this in a non-party-political way. In the John Major and Tony Blair premierships, from 1991 to 2007, national productivity rose by 27%. Since 2007, it has risen by 1.7%. So we have a dramatic growth problem. I suppose this is a subset of the artificial intelligence revolution, which we have to be part of if we are going to succeed as a country. My friend and colleague in the other place, Peter Kyle, who is now in charge of innovation and research—whatever that new department is called—sees this question of how we mobilise these technological advances for growth as one of the great progressive causes of our time.

In some respects, the Government have gone about this in the right way, in trying to establish a partnership body through injecting public money in partnership with academic expertise, scientists, engineers and corporations. I share the view of the noble Baroness, Lady Bowles, that this should not exclude the smaller innovators, but I also very much share the view of my colleague, my noble friend Lord Tunnicliffe, that any partnership work should involve the trade unions. As someone said, this will have enormous consequences for jobs in the future and we must involve the trade unions from an early stage.

The Bill is legal and technical, and it is necessary, but of course it is not the whole answer—it is not a policy framework for autonomous vehicles. Reading it, I thought that, if only we had a magic wand and could bring automated vehicles into play overnight, getting rid of all that we have now, the Bill would be a perfect example of how to regulate that. But we are not in that situation: we in fact face decades of hybridity, or a mixed system—however you want to describe it—and that is the immediate regulatory task.

I will pick the Minister up on one point he made early in his remarks. He mentioned that the safety benefits of automated vehicles were “plain to see”. Well, they might be in this idealised future that we might get to some time, but are they “plain to see” in this hybrid world, which will be the real world of the next 20 or 30 years?

There are lots of issues about what safety standards we set. If we have a significant number of accidents, it will put back the development of these technologies in a very rapid way. I picked up an article in the Financial Times—a great authority—by a Mr Richard Waters, describing what had happened in California, where the regulators have actually halted operations at Cruise, the General Motors driverless car division, because of accidents in California. We do not want to get ourselves into that situation, so we have to move forward in a way that will prevent that kind of eventuality—and there are lots of issues in that regard.

The insurance and legal questions around what happens when a so-called “transition demand” occurs are very complicated. There is the issue that the House of Commons Transport Committee raised in a very good report: what happens to the driving skills of drivers who become gradually reliant on automated systems? How do we keep their driving skills up to date? What sort of test should you have to pass to be a driver who part-relies on automation but is then capable of taking control in an emergency? I know that some people talk about 10 seconds but, if you are doing your emails or talking on the phone to an important colleague, would you be capable of doing this in 10 seconds? I do not know. There seem to be a lot of issues here.

Of course, there are other issues, not just to do with the car, the systems and the driver but to do with the networks within which these vehicles will run. Failings in digital connectivity is the obvious one. I have just finished 10 years on Cumbria County Council and, if someone had told us that we had to spend millions of pounds on the database of our road system, I would have had lots of Conservative councillors getting up and saying, “You’re not wasting your money on all of that—what about the potholes?” We would have a real problem with local authority finance in what strikes me as potentially a very costly exercise.

Then there is the question of regulation of the agencies in the Department for Transport that will have to put these systems in place. There is the question of skills: will the people in the agencies have the right skills to do the job properly? We all know that what will happen is that the brightest and most capable people will be employed by the companies, which will have the sources of expertise. So there are lots of issues that we need to face.

We need an effective system of regulation, and we have to think about how that is going to work. We do not want a system of regulation that holds things back —the man with a red flag who has to walk in front of the vehicle. We have to avoid that kind of regulation. Equally, we have to approach it from the point that people will expect that this new technology will produce not just the status quo in safety but a real advance, with fewer accidents, fewer deaths and fewer life-changing injuries.

The key is to develop a regulatory system that is rapidly adaptable. That is an easy thing to say, but when we think about regulation and the way it works—or the way I have observed it working in Britain in many different forms—we see that it is not very adaptable. We have great crises that result in regulatory reviews; they come up with long reports that make lots of recommendations and then those reports lie on people’s shelves and do not get acted on. We have to be more flexible and adaptable than we have been. Regulation is a good thing, but it has to be flexible and adaptable. We have to get away from the mindset of, “As little regulation as possible is what is good for the country”. We have to have good regulation, not bad regulation, and if we do, we may be able to take advantage of the great opportunities that these technological advances offer.

Photo of Lord Davies of Gower Lord Davies of Gower Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport) 6:35, 28 November 2023

My Lords, I am grateful to noble Lords for their very thoughtful, indeed fascinating, contributions on the Bill. I will attempt to respond to as many questions and concerns as possible and where I have not been able to, I will certainly follow up in writing.

Let me begin, once again, with safety. The noble Lords, Lord Berkeley and Lord Hampton, my noble friends Lord Holmes of Richmond and Lord Lucas, and others have rightly highlighted the debate about the exact safety standard to which self-driving vehicles should be held. As my noble friend Lord Borwick rightly pointed out, the long-term safety benefits of these vehicles could be truly vast. However, they will not be realised if the public lose confidence early on, or if an unnecessarily high threshold is imposed from the outset. A careful balance must therefore be struck. We believe that the careful and competent driver standard in our safety ambition strikes that balance most appropriately. As I have said, this standard is considerably higher than that of the average driver on UK roads. It is the highest of the three standards on which the Law Commission consulted and the same one to which human drivers are held.

By setting out the statement of safety principles in statutory guidance, informed by this safety ambition, we will be able to raise standards over time as the technology improves or as public expectations change. This approach is in line with the Law Commission’s recommendations. My noble friend Lord Holmes of Richmond asked how and when we would review the safety of self-driving vehicles. The Bill sets out a flexible, future-proof framework that can be adapted and updated in line with technological developments. While we do not believe that it would be appropriate to specify time periods for review in the Bill, we of course recognise the importance of transparency and regular reporting. Clause 38 therefore creates a general monitoring duty, requiring the Secretary of State to publish an annual report on the performance of self-driving vehicles and how this aligns with safety standards.

This leads me to the points made by the noble Lord, Lord Liddle, the noble Earl, Lord Lytton, and the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, on whether this framework will work in a world with a mix of self-driving and manual vehicles. The Law Commission’s recommendations, accepted by the Government, set out a framework that is designed to work for a mix of traffic where self-driving vehicles will share the road with conventional human drivers and vulnerable road users. Similarly, in response to my noble friend Lord Naseby’s question in this area, self-driving vehicles will need to be able to safely operate using existing infrastructure, and we therefore do not anticipate any immediate changes in current provision or practices. To satisfy the self-driving test, vehicles must drive safely and legally in accordance with road rules and conditions which apply to everyone.

In response to my noble friend Lord Holmes of Richmond asking whether the Government would ban human-driven vehicles if self-driving vehicles were found to be much safer, we reiterate the point that nothing in the Bill seeks to restrict any existing road users exercising their right to use roads or other public places.

The noble Lord, Lord Cameron of Dillington, raised the possibility of jaywalking laws restricting pedestrians from crossing roads except at pedestrian crossings. In response, I point to the law commissions’ analysis that to restrict the freedom of movement of pedestrians due to the insufficiencies in automated vehicle functionalities does not appear justified at this time.

The noble Baronesses, Lady Randerson and Lady Bowles, raised the issue of cybersecurity. Vehicles with automated systems will be subject to detailed technical cybersecurity assessment as part of the well-established type approval process. The DfT co-chairs the UN group that developed the new international regulations for vehicle cybersecurity. Separately, the DfT runs its own cyber safety and assurance programme for self-driving vehicles, working closely with the National Cyber Security Centre, other government departments and our international partners. This has included developing a bespoke cyber training programme for technical staff, supported by the NCSC.

I turn to the pertinent issue of accessibility, as raised by my noble friend Lord Holmes of Richmond and the noble Baronesses, Lady Brinton and Lady Bennett. The granting of self-driving authorisations will be subject to the public sector equality duty, and the Government intend to make equality impact assessments part of the authorisation process. The noble Baroness, Lady Brinton, raised concerns that, by disapplying existing taxi, private hire and bus legislation, important accessibility protections may not apply. Clause 87 requires that automated passenger permits could be granted only with a view to improving the understanding of how these services can be provided and designed for older and disabled passengers. Service providers will also need to report back on lessons learned.

I turn to some of the specifics of how we expect these vehicles to operate. The noble Baronesses, Lady Bowles and Lady Randerson, the noble Lord, Lord Liddle, and others asked about the transition demand, particularly how we will ensure that users are given sufficient time to safely resume control. The Bill requires that transition periods be long enough for the user-in-charge to resume control, including any time required to regain situational awareness and prepare themselves. Transition demands will use a combination of visual, acoustic and haptic warnings. The exact time required will vary significantly by use case and is therefore not set out in the Bill. Authorisation will assess whether a self-driving feature’s transition demand is of sufficient duration and whether it issues appropriate cues given the context. This may also be assessed as part of vehicle type approval.

The noble Baroness, Lady Bowles, and others asked about the interaction between self-driving vehicles and the insurance industry and how we will ensure that insurers have access to appropriate data. Following a road incident, a claimant would notify the insurer. The insurer would need access to data recorded by the vehicle to determine in the first instance how the claim will be handled. The Secretary of State will have the power to create provision in secondary legislation for the vehicle to record and retain data to determine liabilities and ensure that the insurer has access to that data.

The noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe, asked how the framework would deal with a breakdown or other incident occurring to a no-user-in-charge vehicle, given that there may be no human present in the vehicle at the time. Every no-user-in-charge vehicle will be overseen by a licensed no-user-in-charge operator. These operators will be responsible for responding to incidents such as breakdowns. We will be able to set detailed conditions as part of the operator licensing, ensuring that they have the right capabilities in place to respond to such incidents.

The noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, asked about issues with self-driving vehicles crossing international borders. Given that domestic regulations on these technologies are still in their infancy, there are as yet no international agreements governing vehicles passing from one jurisdiction to another. We have been engaging with our international partners to develop guidelines on the use of these vehicles and to encourage consistency in domestic approaches.

In the interim, we anticipate that vehicles will be designed to de-activate any self-driving features when outside their intended domain of operation. We would also have the power to require this through authorisation conditions if necessary. Communication about authorisation for the use of self-driving will make it clear that it applies only to Great Britain. We will monitor rules in other countries to determine what messages should be provided for users of authorised vehicles who intend to use them outside Great Britain.

Similarly, my noble friend Lord Moylan and the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, raised the issue of vehicles passing into Northern Ireland. The core provisions of the Bill do not extend to Northern Ireland, in line with the Road Traffic Act 1988, which extends to Great Britain only. Northern Ireland has its own traffic laws. Accordingly, the authorisation for use of self-driving does not extend to Northern Ireland, and in the absence of specific rules on use there, the vehicle would be treated as conventional and the driver would be liable for its behaviour. Throughout the review, led by the Law Commission, and the development of the Bill, we have kept the Northern Ireland Executive briefed on our plans.

The noble Lords, Lord Tunnicliffe and Lord Liddle, asked about jobs and growth. We believe that the self-driving sector could create more than 38,000 new, well-paid jobs up and down the country by 2035. The UK’s being a leader in self-driving technology will attract inward investment and commercial opportunities, as mentioned by my noble friend Lord Ranger. These new jobs could range from the design and manufacture of vehicles to overseeing safe and secure passenger operations.

Turning briefly to address questions of scope, the noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe, mentioned so-called “pavement bots”. The Bill is designed to cover all road vehicles. While the legal definition of roads includes the pavement, the use of vehicles on pavements is limited through the Highway Act 1835. Any future changes to regulations regarding pavement use would need to be balanced with the need to maintain safety and accessibility for other road users. We are funding research to better understand the opportunities and risks associated with this technology.

My noble friend Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth asked about the Government’s plans for industries out of scope of this Bill, such as the aircraft industry. I assure my noble friend that the UK’s strategic vision is to maximise the benefits of automated air and maritime technologies, as well as road technologies. We will publish the Future of Flight action plan, which will set out the strategic direction for the aviation industry, developed through the Future of Flight Industry Group.

On data, the noble Baronesses, Lady Bowles and Lady Brinton, and my noble friend Lord Borwick, correctly pointed out that large quantities of data will be created and used to enable self-driving. Data may need to be shared to ensure that safety is maintained and operations such as insurance continue to function efficiently. However, data must remain properly protected. Self-driving vehicles will be subject to existing data protection laws in the UK. Our proposed Bill does not alter that, so manufacturers and government will have to ensure that data is protected. The Bill allows data to be requested for the monitoring of self-driving vehicle safety and the investigation of incidents. As the noble Baroness mentioned, the Secretary of State may make regulations authorising the sharing with other persons of the information gathered. Those regulations will be subject to consultation and considered in the House. It will be an offence for persons to share data or use it for other purposes unless authorised by those regulations. However, the noble Baroness, Lady Bowles, pointed out the provisions under Clause 42(7) are very wide. We will reflect further on her comments to ensure that the right balance of safety, commercial interests and personal data protection is maintained.

The noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe, asked about the rationale behind the misleading marketing offences in the Bill. The inclusion of these offences was specifically recommended by the Law Commission, as it felt that the current law would leave some gaps in protection. For example, the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 apply only if a customer makes a transactional decision such as buying a car. This is too narrow and leaves a gap, as the risk of misunderstanding a vehicle’s self-driving capability is not confined to the purchase alone. It could include, for example, borrowing the vehicle from a friend.

As the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, and other noble Lords have pointed out, it is vital that we build and maintain public consent for this new technology. In 2022 the Department for Transport funded an award-winning and unprecedented study called the Great Self-Driving Exploration. It was explicitly designed to allow people from all walks of life to engage with self-driving vehicles, understand how they might affect their lives, address the existing transport challenges and determine whether it would be a good thing. The learning from this research is being used to develop future engagement plans, which are being developed with trialling organisations, industry, academia and road safety groups, including through the government-led AV-DRiVE group.

The noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, raised the question of how the Government will administer this new framework. We intend that the delivery of these new processes will rest with the Department for Transport’s executive agencies, in line with other existing responsibilities for conventional vehicles. We expect the Vehicle Certification Agency to assume responsibility for the initial authorisation process. The authorisation of self-driving vehicles will, in many cases, use vehicle type approval to support assessments of safety. As the UK’s designated type approval authority, the VCA is well placed to carry out this new function.

We expect the Driver & Vehicle Standards Agency to be responsible for the NUIC operator licensing and enforcement. The DVSA is already responsible for licensing for passenger service vehicles and freight operators, and it has existing powers for stopping and testing vehicles. The in-use regulatory system applies across both authorisation and operator licensing and, as the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, pointed out, it will require close co-operation between the agencies.

On the question of capacity and capability raised by the noble Lord, Lord Liddle, the roles of the VCA and the DVSA are being developed as part of our ongoing safety assurance programme. We are working with the VCA and external partners to begin to put in place the right skills, facilities and processes to deliver this new regime. That has included developing existing staff and creating new roles to cover critical areas such as cybersecurity, simulation and machine learning; establishing new facilities in Bristol and the Midlands focused on assessing complex electronic systems; and conducting research into potential assessment methodologies. Similarly, the DVSA has established a dedicated team to consider the new processes that may be necessary to support NUIC operator licensing and in-use regulation.

My noble friend Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth asked a question on the budget for the Centre for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles. The centre is a special policy directorate working across the Department for Transport and the Department for Business and Trade. At the last spending review, the CCAV received £100 million covering a three-year period to 2025. Of that funding, £66 million was for research into and development of the commercialisation of the technology, and £34 million was to fund the research and evidence required to develop the regulatory framework, including funding for capability building in the motoring agencies. The work the CCAV does is not just limited to funding.

My noble friend Lord Bourne also asked about what international engagement has taken place. UK officials take part in key international and UN programmes, including the Global Forum for Road Traffic Safety and the World Forum for Harmonization of Vehicle Regulations. As noble Lords would expect, UK officials also regularly engage bilaterally with counterparts in other nations developing legislation and standards in this space.

I am conscious of the time and apologise if I have not been able to address all the questions raised by noble Lords; I stand ready to provide further detailed briefings to noble Lords where required. I will check the record to see what has been missed and will address that in writing. We have heard a healthy mix of views today, and there is general consensus that utmost care and attention will be necessary if we are to build a system that can capture the benefits of self-driving vehicles while winning the confidence of the public, which is absolutely essential. I am therefore extremely grateful for all noble Lords’ insightful contributions, which I look forward to discussing further as we move to Committee.

Bill read a second time.