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The Queen’s Speech 2016

19 May 2016

The Queen’s speech set out a range of measures to modernise the UK’s economy, including legislation around driverless cars and the digital age.

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IET response to Queen’s Speech: driverless vehicles will need software MOT 

New laws announced in the Queen’s Speech will allow fully autonomous vehicles to be insured under normal policies in the UK. This announcement, according to the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET), is an important step forward which will ultimately improve road safety and reduce congestion, but the Government also needs to introduce legislation to improve cyber security in autonomous vehicles.

Hugh Boyes, the IET’s cyber security expert, said: “Driverless vehicles have huge potential to transform the UK’s transport network and are a great opportunity to test the technology so that the UK can remain at the forefront of research and development.

“However, we must ensure that cyber security is carefully considered. It is not just about the threat of a car being hacked, it also relates to the overall security and safety of the vehicle’s operation.  

“For that reason it will be crucial that the Government introduces proper regulations for autonomous vehicles, which should include the need for a software MOT to be performed on a regular basis. This should help to assure the ongoing trustworthiness of the vehicle software and systems.

“Operation of an autonomous vehicle will be heavily dependent on a lot of software embedded in the vehicle, which provides very complex functions that are currently performed by the driver, e.g. interpreting potential hazards, changes in vehicle direction and speed (both of the vehicle itself and of adjacent or approaching vehicles), and responding safely to vehicle faults or malfunctions. 

“It will be vital to ensure that this software runs smoothly so, in the same way as we take our cars for annual MOTs at the local garage today, in the future we will need to include a check on the software to ensure defects and vulnerabilities are addressed. How these checks happen – and who is responsible for them – is something we should be thinking about now. 

“While we are used to putting up with software errors in non-safety critical situations, such as when our computers freeze and require a reboot, we cannot tolerate such behaviour in autonomous vehicles as this could put the safety of the vehicle’s passengers and those outside the vehicle at risk.”

Philippa Oldham, Head of Transport and Manufacturing at the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, said in response to the Queen’s speech:

“The Queen’s announcement that the Government will bid to ensure the UK is at the forefront of technology for new forms of transport is welcomed.

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“The announcement of this Bill enforces the current guidance coming from Office of Low Emission Vehicles (OLEV) and the Centre for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles (CCAV).

“Great Britain has the opportunity to become a global leader in developing autonomous vehicles as we have some of the most open regulation in the world with the Department for Transport issuing its Code of Practice for testing last year.

“In addition this open regulation should attract investment to the country encouraging others to come and test and develop their solutions here.

“As with all new technology safety comes first and we need to make sure that the integration of these autonomous vehicles into current fleet is done with the utmost care.

“In addition, we must make sure that we understand how the users (the public and businesses) want to use these vehicles. Bringing together industry, legislators, regulators and members of the general public will ensure that we integrate and implement new regulatory regimes at the right time.

“It is particularly encouraging that Government will make insurance available to users of driverless cars, and measures to encourage investment into electric vehicles, commercial space planes and drones is positive news for business and transport users.

“As outlined in our case study earlier this year, making all vehicles autonomous could prevent up to 95 percent of all traffic accidents. The widespread adoption of autonomous vehicles would also help bring billions to the economy and potentially save thousands of lives.

Commenting on the Queen’s Speech, Terry Scuoler, Chief Executive of EEF, the manufacturers’ organisation, said:

“The Government’s legislative agenda will have an important bearing on the operating environment for businesses. In particular, if industry is to take advantage of the fourth industrial revolution it is critical that we have a world class digital and physical infrastructure in place, together with the highly skilled people who can deliver it.”

On the Digital Economy Bill, Terry Scuoler, said “as manufacturers seek to take advantage of the technologies that will drive a fourth industrial revolution it is critical that government acts to ensure that businesses have access to world class digital infrastructure. This Bill will lay the groundwork to ensure that businesses have access to more cost effective and more reliable and resilient digital infrastructure than at present. A specific universal service obligation for businesses is central to this ambition.”

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