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UK driverless cars safety scheme in development

A new safety regime in development in the UK could build trust in the use of driverless cars and offer a blueprint for other testing frameworks in the world, a legal expert has said.

The UK government earlier this week announced that it is "developing an assurance system" for self-driving vehicles. The 'CAV PASS' scheme is designed to "ensure self-driving vehicles are safe and secure by design and minimise any defects ahead of their testing, sale and wider deployment on UK roads", it said.

Precise details of the requirements driverless cars will have to meet under the scheme have yet to be made public, but the government suggested it will involve meeting standards on cybersecurity among other things.

"The new safety assurance system will first focus on enabling the advanced trialling of self-driving vehicles, and aims to eventually help assure the safety and security of these vehicles for their mainstream sale and use," the government said. "Such advanced trials may include those without a human operator in the loop at all times, or the assessment of novel vehicle types such as pods and shuttles."

Ben Gardner of Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind Out-Law, said: "Safety and public confidence are going to be two of the key drivers towards the success of connected and autonomous vehicles and developing an assurance scheme is logical way of helping to address both of these matters."

"It will be interesting to see how the scheme is developed and whether this will extend beyond the UK and create a blueprint for a scheme which could apply across the EU and beyond," he said.

News of the CAV PASS scheme was announced by future of transport minister George Freeman on the same day that he opened a new driverless cars testing facility spanning 70km of "secure test tracks" between Millbrook and Culham in England. The 'Autonomous Village' also has a private mobile network and simulator suite, the government said.

Freeman said: "Self-driving vehicles can offer significant rewards for the UK’s economy, road safety and accessibility. We are determined to lead in the testing and development of safe autonomous transport. This is new terrain, and with our national expertise the UK is well-placed to blaze the trail globally by developing a global benchmark for assuring the safety and security of this exciting technology."

Earlier this year the government issued a new code of practice for driverless vehicle trials.

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