UK passes Automated Vehicles Act 2024

On 20 May 2024 the UK passed the Automated Vehicles Act 2024, setting up a comprehensive framework for the regulation of self-driving vehicles in the UK.

On 20 May 2024 the UK passed the Automated Vehicles Act 2024, setting up a comprehensive framework for the regulation of self-driving vehicles in the UK. 

The Act is the culmination of many years of work by the Department for Transport and the Law Commissions (of England & Wales and of Scotland) to develop a regulatory system that ensures safety for road users, whilst allowing innovation in a technology that promises to have a profound effect on the way we get around.  Please see our separate article in which we outlined some of the background and rationale to the Act.

Key Principles

Underpinning the Act will be a statement of safety principles (to be published subsequently by the Government) whose objective is to ensure that:

  • safety of automated vehicles is equivalent to, or higher than, careful and competent human drivers and

  • road safety in Great Britain will be better as a result of use of automated vehicles than it would otherwise be.

This point – that automated vehicles must lead to an improvement from the status quo – was made consistently during preparation of the proposals and is seen as being key as a policy objective in itself, but also to achieving the public confidence that will be necessary to achieve widespread acceptance of automated vehicles.  It also recognises that safety is relevant both at a systemic level and at an individual vehicle level – an improvement in general road safety should not come at the expense of a deterioration in safety in individual cases. 

The Act also recognises that in many cases automation will happen incrementally rather than moving straight to L5 automation at a whole vehicle level.  It therefore allows for authorisation:

  • at a feature level

  • for self-driving features only in specific circumstances (eg motorway driving, daylight driving, urban driving)

  • for different levels of automation, in particular with a distinction between features that require a user to be able to take charge and those that don’t.

Framework and key concepts

The Act itself does not set out a detailed set of regulations and requirements for authorisation – this detail will come through secondary regulation – but instead defines the key concepts for how the framework will operate. 

Here are some of those key concepts:

  • a feature is a combination of mechanical or electronic operations that equipment of the vehicle performs

  • an automated vehicle authorisation – this provides for authorisation of either an individual vehicle or all vehicles of the type described in the authorisation.  In order to be eligible for an automated vehicle authorisation a vehicle must satisfy the “self-driving test” by reference to identified features – ie that it can travel autonomously using those features in a way which is both safe and legal

  • authorisation requirements are regulations that will specify both the initial requirements for an authorisation to be given and also the ongoing requirements for a vehicle to remain authorised

  • the authorised self-driving entity is the legal entity responsible for the behaviour of the vehicle and the vehicle continuing to meet the automated vehicle authorisation requirements. Given the ongoing nature of the authorisation requirements, the authorised self-driving entity role is also ongoing (ie not limited to the initial authorisation application) and will therefore require an entity to be of good repute and of good financial standing

  • a “user-in-charge” feature is a feature that requires a human to be in charge of the vehicle, including with the ability to take control if a “transition demand” is issued by the vehicle

  • a “no-user-in-charge” feature, on the other hand, enables a vehicle to drive itself for an entire journey and does not require an individual to be capable of taking control or even in the vehicle

  • a no-user-in-charge operator – although no-user-in-charge features can be employed without an individual in the vehicle having control, the Act nevertheless requires there to be a licensed operator which remotely oversees the vehicle’s journey and is able to detect and respond to any problems arising in the no-user-in-charge feature during a journey.  In order to be licensed an operator will also have to meet similar conditions as the authorised self-driving entity role, including to be of good repute and good financial standing.  This role is distinct from the authorised self-driving entity, although it seems likely that the same entity could take on both roles.  Further detail about the precise distinction between these roles should become clearer through regulations, although the Government has stressed that the authorised self-driving entity will continue to be responsible for the overall safety of the vehicle (for example through software updates). 

Supporting this framework are a number of other provisions relating to information sharing with authorities, enforcement, marketing restrictions and updates to road traffic offences. 

Next steps

Although the majority of the provisions of the Act do not come in force straight away – their commencement will be decided by the Government in due course – the passage of the Act is a big moment for this emerging technology. 

Clearly there is a lot which still needs to be defined through further regulations, however.  Our team will be monitoring these next steps and on hand to help your business with the implementation – do get in touch. 



Authored by Oliver Wilson, Micaela Bostrom.


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