Amendment 1

Part of Automated Vehicles Bill [HL] - Report – in the House of Lords at 3:31 pm on 6 February 2024.

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Photo of Lord Berkeley Lord Berkeley Labour 3:31, 6 February 2024

My Lords, these amendments are all about road safety. Of course, it is a very important subject, which we discussed at length at Committee. Many of the comments made by noble Lords will have been reflected in what I am about to say and in what the Minister said. The Minister has some amendments and I have a couple of amendments in this grouping.

We are all struggling to come up with a definition of “road safety”—which will probably stand for many years—that will enable us to avoid the fear that automatic vehicles will by definition be less safe because they will run into more people. It is a very difficult and challenging subject. My view, and I am very grateful to Cycling UK and other groups for helping with this work, is that we need a step change in road safety. The risks of death or injury on our roads are significantly higher than for life in general, or indeed for other types of transport networks, such as rail. Particularly, pedestrians, people who cycle and other non-motorised road users bear a disproportionate brunt of this risk. I think that this will be a worry all the way through.

I was very interested to hear from Cycling UK and the Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety that they tried to follow up the work the Law Commission did in this regard—and did it very well. They came up with two options for trying to improve the definition. The first defined the standard required in terms of what would be required for a human driver to pass a driving test with no faults recorded by the examiner. The second was to quantify the risk of a collision or traffic infraction, possibly per something like 1 billion kilometres travelled.

I came to the conclusion that the first one was probably better, which is what is in my Amendment 1. This says basically that the vehicle should be driven—remotely, but driven—

“in the same manner while undertaking a practical test of driving skills and behaviour in accordance with the Motor Vehicles (Driving Licences) Regulations 1999, would pass that test with no faults”.

I think that is quite a good one. It would allow the Secretary of State to change it by statutory instrument if he or she thought that was a good idea.

The Minister will speak to his amendment, which I think is an improvement. It is a question of having a debate on these things. Although I do not think we will finish it today, I hope we can make some progress on the right way forward to make sure that road safety is not reduced; in other words, it needs to be improved.

There are two other amendments that go with this. First, Amendment 2 in my name relates to the types of locations or circumstances where these criteria are met. It is very different being on a motorway from being on a road in a congested town or in the countryside, and it is important that the principles that are applied should have the option of being different for each one.

Secondly, Amendment 4 says simply that we should aim for something a lot better than “better”. Whether

“significantly better for all road users” is the right wording is something that we can debate. I think “significantly” is important, and it is really important that it applies to all road users, which includes pedestrians, cyclists, children, older people, disabled people, and so on.

With that short introduction to the road safety issue in the Bill, I beg to move.