What developments are driving the deployment of Connected and Autonomous Vehicles?

Written on 3 Mar 2017

If 2016 showed us that the future is unpredictable, one thing is certain; tomorrow’s roads — and the vehicles that travel on them — will be far smarter than today’s. Fuelled by innovation, investment and the desire to make individual mobility safer and more enjoyable, the excitement about connected and (ultimately) autonomous vehicles has taken the vehicle industry by storm.

The economic opportunity presented by connected and autonomous vehicles (CAVs) is enormous, with the digital automotive economy predicted to quadruple to €115 billion by 2020, according to a PwC study. The Digitising European Industry Strategy identifies CAVs as a priority topic for boosting the competitiveness of European industry. However, consumers and their governments will only embrace the new opportunities CAVs bring where technology and regulation warrant safety.

As ever with an emerging technology, existing legislated is becoming outmoded in this shifting context and will need to be tailored as regulators clamber to keep up with the changes CAVs will bring.

What developments are impacting CAVs?

2016 saw plenty of announcements from the UK government, the European Commission and various industry bodies in relation to CAVs; with 2017 promising to bring further detail. Below are a few examples of regulations coming down the tracks and recent proposals from industry bodies, in relation to CAVs:

1. The Modern Transport Bill – as she arrived to make her speech to Parliament on 18 May 2016 in a horse drawn carriage, there was a little irony in the Queen stating that “my Ministers will ensure the United Kingdom is at the forefront of technology for new forms of transport, including autonomous and electric vehicles”.

Whilst we are still some way from fully autonomous vehicles that will whisk us around without any need for driver interaction, the government’s latest plans signal a clear commitment to putting in place a legal framework that allows emerging autonomous transport technology to grow and flourish. Ministers want driverless cars to be on the roads within four years, with trials taking place in Bristol, Greenwich, Milton Keynes and Coventry.

The purpose of the proposed Bill is to “cut red tape” and create “conditions that drive innovation”, in order to make the UK a global centre for the development, testing and implementation of CAVs. However, political events since May 2016 could mean that this legislation is delayed as civil servants in Whitehall focus on the UK’s exit from the EU.

2. The Vehicle Technology and Aviation Bill 2016-17 – this Bill was introduced to the House of Commons on the 22 February 2017 and is scheduled to receive Second Reading on 6 March 2017. Part 1 of the Bill sets out the broad parameters of how CAVs involved in accidents will be treated for insurance purposes.

Currently, according to section 145 of the Road Traffic Act 1988, all (human) drivers need to have insurance in order to provide compensation for third parties for personal injury or property damage due to a driving related incident. The Government’s view is that such principles need to be extended to cover automated vehicles when the car is the driver and the ‘driver’ is sometimes a passenger. The Government has stated that it believes in answering the insurance questions around CAVs will encourage manufacturers to develop CAVs in the United Kingdom with the confidence that they can exploit market opportunities.

3. The Declaration of Amsterdam – on 14 April 2016, the transport ministers of all 28 (current) EU Member States signed the ‘Declaration of Amsterdam. With this, the European Commission and its Member States, along with the transport industry, have pledged to develop rules and regulations for CAVs – meaning Europe will develop a shared strategy on connected and autonomous driving.

The text of the Declaration recognises that there are important questions to be answered regarding security, use of data, privacy and liability. For example, the Declaration calls for:

  • a coherent European Framework for the deployment of interoperable connected and automated driving, which should be available by 2019;
  • a shared objective of ensuring data protection and privacy; and
  • close co-operation with other regions such as Japan and USA to work towards a global framework and international standards for CAVs.

It remains to be seen whether the UK will continue to work closely with the remaining 27 EU Member States post-brexit – on the scope of the Declaration or the other pan-European initiatives discussed below.

4. European Commission strategy on Cooperative Intelligent Transport Systems – the European Commission has published a new strategy with an ambitious objective: to ensure coordinated deployment of Cooperative Intelligent Transport Systems (C-ITS) by 2019.

It is interesting to note that “the Commission is of the opinion that data broadcast by C-ITS from vehicles must be considered as personal data”. As a result of this, CAVs will need to fully comply with the recently adopted General Data Protection Regulation (“GDPR”) including, where necessary, obtaining consent from end-users.

The Commission argues that it will be impossible for the EU to implement its CAV plans by 2019 if a proper regulatory framework is not in place. With this in mind, the Commission has said that it will use its powers under the Intelligent Transport System Directive (ITS Directive) (2010/40/EU). The ITS Directive gives a clear mandate to deal with matters of linking vehicles and the transport infrastructure, by the means of “delegated acts”: legislation that can be approved out of the normal legislative procedure, in much faster terms. The Commission is aiming to have a legal framework in place by 2018.

5. ENISA Recommendations for Smart Car Security – On January 13 2017 the EU Agency for Network and Information Security (ENISA) published a study, Cyber security and the resilience of smart cars, which identifies good practices and recommendations to ensure the security of CAVs against cyber threats. The report outlines where the key vulnerabilities are in CAV systems as well as the threats, attack scenarios and mitigation factors/security measures manufacturers should consider. ENISA lists good practices across key three areas:

  • security functions;
  • organisational measures; and
  • policy and standards.

Ultimately, ENISA has developed recommendations aimed at various stakeholders involved in the CAV ecosystem. ENISA recommends, for example, that manufacturers, vendors and insurers should look to ensure that processes are in place for clear liability to be established in the event of security issues. ENISA also recommends that manufacturers, tiers and aftermarket vendors should work to improve their information sharing within the industry and exchanges with contacts in the security field.

What does this mean for the automotive industry?

The importance of legal certainty for the automotive industry should not be underestimated. In a sector that needs to account for the safety of all road users, clear guidelines on liability for accidents, malfunctions and potential hacks will be crucial.

The international race is on to develop a legal framework which aids deployment of CAVs. For example, Singapore’s government has – in early 2017 – proposed new laws governing CAVs to facilitate the development and testing of CAVs, on public roads. The technological momentum is building, now legislators must keep up.

OEMs and technology companies are already collaborating on developing CAVs and associations are being formed, such as the 5G Automotive Association which aims to develop, test and promote communications solutions, support standardization and accelerate commercial availability and global market penetration.