Clause 24 - False or withheld information relevant to vehicle safety

Automated Vehicles Bill [Lords] – in a Public Bill Committee at 11:00 am on 19 March 2024.

Alert me about debates like this

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Photo of Martin Vickers Martin Vickers Conservative, Cleethorpes

With this, it will be convenient to discuss clause 25 stand part.

Photo of Anthony Browne Anthony Browne Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)

We are making such fantastic progress; I thought I ought to speak on some of the clauses, for the record.

Clause 24 is about the duty of candour requirement on regulated bodies, such as the ASDEs and the no-user-in-charge operators, to provide accurate information to Government. The issue is particularly important because it has been raised with me in many different environments and has been a concern in other jurisdictions. If we are to get the technology right, it is essential that we learn from the process. However, that can happen only if the companies in the industry are completely open with the Government and investigators with the information they have. If they see anything going wrong, they should be completely frank and open about it. That has not always happened in other countries and it has caused problems.

The duty of candour is not new—there are similar things in the pharmaceutical industry—but it is incredibly important that the companies developing the new technology know the expectations on them to be completely open and frank with the public. That is the only way we will have improvements and advance the technology.

Photo of Grahame Morris Grahame Morris Labour, Easington

This is an important part of the Bill. Is the Minister in a position to share with us the discussions with the insurance industry? It is a key issue that, if a vehicle is autonomous and is being driven in autonomous mode, the liability presumably rests not with the passenger or the driver but with the provider—the manufacturer and the software provider. The Transport Committee met a number of industry representatives, who flagged to us the difficulty of quantifying the risk, as well as the need for candour in identifying whether the issue is systems failure or driver error because the driver intervened with the system. Is the Minister in a position to enlighten us?

Photo of Anthony Browne Anthony Browne Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)

The hon. Gentleman makes a valid point; indeed, I have met representatives of the insurance industry about it. There are two points about the Bill that are relevant. One is that it creates the powers to set up independent investigators. Whenever there is an incident or a collision, they will investigate what the cause was and what the lessons to be learned from it are. That is a really important process in terms of improving the technology and ensuring that things that go wrong do not happen again.

The hon. Gentleman made a valid point on insurance. If there is an accident, the insurance industry first needs to know if the vehicle was in self-driving mode and who is liable. Is it the ASDE or the driver? Secondly, it needs to know what actually went wrong. There are therefore provisions in the Bill to require the regulated entities—the ASDE or the no-user-in-charge operator—to provide data to third parties such as insurance companies. Obviously, we protect the data privacy of individuals, and nothing in this legislation changes the data protection rules. However, the point is absolutely valid: we need to ensure that the data is available to investigators and insurance companies.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 24 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clauses 25 to 27 ordered to stand part of the Bill.