Amendment 1

Part of Automated Vehicles Bill [HL] - Report – in the House of Lords at 3:45 pm on 6 February 2024.

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Photo of Lord Hampton Lord Hampton Crossbench 3:45, 6 February 2024

My Lords, I will speak in support of Amendments 1 and 4 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley. We dealt with safety a lot in Committee, and it is paramount. This is the most important part of the Bill. I became an enthusiast about automated vehicles because I turned up to a briefing. Most people you talk to are ambivalent at best, and there is a sort of dystopian “Blade Runner” worry about faceless terminator drones.

Safety needs to be beyond reproach when bad things happen. As the noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe, said, bad things will happen—deaths will happen. We need to be able to face people and say that we did the best we possibly could. The noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe, said this needs to be easy to understand and define; that is absolutely right, but it needs to be equivalent to, or better than, a driver who does the best in a driving test. That does not sound too high to me.

Amendment 4 mentions “significantly” improving road safety. The noble Lord, Lord Borwick, said that we should expect all autonomous vehicles to be better than human drivers, but what if they are not? We need to hold them to account. This would make the whole thing easier to sell to a sceptical public, as opposed to the government amendment. I am not a lawyer, but I do not see why trying to make things significantly better would deter players from joining the market. The industry will spend money on this only when it sees a momentum shift in public opinion, which is why safety is so important and why these amendments are so important.