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Connected and autonomous vehicles: The emerging legal challenges

We published our first edition of this paper in 2016 and in that short time we have already seen transformational developments across the sector both in terms of the technologies and the regulatory frameworks.

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It was estimated that the market for connected cars in the UK will more than triple between 2017 and 2021 and that 100% of cars will be network-connected by 2025. These predictions demonstrate the rise of the “connected car” and the continued push towards autonomous vehicles.

From personal computers to smartphones, we have become accustomed to technology transforming our everyday activities. The effects of these changes have been dramatic and far reaching. Business models have been disrupted, customers’ behaviour has changed and regulators and law makers have struggled to keep up with the pace of change in relationships and responsibilities among those that they regulate.

We are now experiencing another dramatic transformation in a familiar aspect of our lives with the development of connected and autonomous vehicles. This will not only bring significant practical changes but also profound cultural and social change as the whole nature of driving and car ownership is transformed, and we rethink all of our mobility solutions.

As well as disrupting car manufacturers’ business models and revenue streams, autonomous vehicles, and the shift in liability they bring, is requiring a wholesale rewriting of road traffic law, insurance provisions and contractual relationships across the supply chain. All this brings complex legal changes and challenges, as well as a great deal of uncertainty.

In some jurisdictions, such as Germany, traffic law has already been amended to permit highly automated driving and the UK has recently introduced The Automated and Electric Vehicles Act and commenced a detailed three year review of all driving laws. Most, if not all, jurisdictions are in the process of defining new rules as they compete to place themselves at the forefront of connected and autonomous mobility solutions.

Until recently, it has been easy to see these debates as theoretical and assume that the self-driving car is still in the realm of science fiction. However, that is changing rapidly and connected and autonomous vehicles are now a reality and being tested in real world conditions. Whilst motor enthusiasts argue that autonomous cars will never become socially acceptable, our view is that society will ultimately embrace connected and autonomous cars if they enhance quality of life, productivity and our wider environment.

In this edition, our lawyers across Europe consider some of the key issues, together with the regulatory and legal implications, that the development of connected and autonomous vehicles will bring, to help those involved navigate through a fast changing and uncertain world. It is imperative that businesses within this sector stay at the forefront of these developments to avoid becoming left behind in the race to full autonomy.

We are fortunate to have further insight from Bosch and Warwick Manufacturing Group. We are very grateful for all of their contributions and insights.

We hope you enjoy this edition.

Nicole Livesey & Stephan Appt

Key Contacts