Written evidence submitted by Pinsent Masons LLP (SDV0048)


Pinsent Masons is a purpose-led professional services business with law at its core. With over 3600 people in 26 offices across 4 continents, we are one of the largest UK-headquartered legal businesses, specialising in Energy, Financial Services, Infrastructure, Real Estate and Technology, Science and Industry.

Given our depth of knowledge across these sectors, particularly in Technology, Science and Industry, we are well placed to respond to areas of interest and importance to our clients. As such, we welcome the opportunity to respond to the Committee’s inquiry on ‘Self-driving vehicles’ and help shape the regulatory framework which will eventually facilitate the safe deployment of autonomous vehicles.

Autonomous vehicles technology is advancing at speed, and the potential opportunities it will present are endless with regards to reducing emissions, reducing accidents, enhancing productivity and boosting economic growth. Pinsent Masons is pleased therefore to see progress is being made in developing the legislative infrastructure to underpin the technology.


The Transport Select Committee (“the Committee”) is scrutinising the development and deployment of self-driving vehicles for use on the roads. The Committee has asked for views on several issues, amongst which is the regulatory framework, including legal status and approval and authorisation processes.

We will use our remarks below to provide insight into the regulatory framework required for the future widespread roll out of self-driving vehicles, before setting out potential recommendations for the Committee, and, indeed, the UK Government to consider when developing the regulatory framework for this fast-evolving technology.

Our response

The recent Law Commission and Scottish Law Commission joint report (“the joint report”) on automated vehicles made various recommendations on the regulatory framework required.  We have identified several areas in the joint report where careful consideration, clarification and suitable guidance are required before a functional and future proof regulatory system can be put in place, and unforeseen consequences avoided. In particular, the joint report:

The stated aim of the recommendations in the joint report is to promote a no-blame safety culture that learns from mistakes, achieved through a system of regulatory sanctions, with criminal sanctions for ASDEs and NUIC in some circumstances. 

For this to be achieved, it might be useful to draw on some of the lessons from the building safety regime –e.g.  accountable person, and the airline industry in relation to data sharing of aircraft defects/accident causes.  In particular, as we have mentioned above, care will be needed to set out roles and responsibilities clearly and avoid duplication of effort.  Black boxes will be key in order to diagnose the root cause of an accident (e.g. camera, sensor, software glitch, telecoms outage, etc.) and insurance will be necessary.  In addition, the Automated and Electric Vehicles Act 2018 may require building out (particularly for NUIC).




August 2022