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Prosecute driverless car devs for software snafus, say Brit cyclists

They also want to geofence motorways

AEV Bill A cyclists' association wants software developers for any "errors" in driverless car software to be "criminally prosecuted" in Blighty.

Cycling UK's submission to the Parliamentary committee considering the Automated and Electric Vehicles Bill (AEV Bill) also suggested that owners of driverless cars should be liable for criminal prosecution if they "switch to the autonomous modes in inappropriate or unsafe locations".

The AEV Bill aims to nail down who pays in the event of a driverless car crash. Insurance companies have shied away from the idea of paying speeding fines on behalf of driverless cars.

However, the association also made some well thought-through points, referring to how the current Road Traffic Act only allows human drivers or owners of a vehicle to be prosecuted if someone is killed or injured by a car: "If an AV system designed purely for motorway use offered and were allowed to take control of a vehicle on a busy urban street and that vehicle then overtook a cyclist too closely, hitting the cyclist and them, an offence of careless or dangerous driving would be impossible as the legislation is currently written."

Cycling UK also suggested that "substantial changes are required to ensure that offences can also be brought against software modifications, either malicious or in error, that results in dangerous automated behaviour," and brought up the idea that the Transport Secretary should authorise a list of occasions on which driverless car technology could be legally enabled.

The underlying thrust of Cycling UK's comments (PDF, 5 pages) appeared to suggest that driverless vehicle technology in the UK should be banned in all circumstances except for operation on motorways. Their concerns stem from unspecified concerns over "immature, under-regulated technologies".

To enforce the nowhere-except-motorways ban that they appear to be proposing, the cyclists suggested that "the AV function could be geo-fenced," before immediately acknowledging that geo-fencing could be "circumvented".

The state of British 'leccy car charging right now

A number of private individuals also wrote to the AEV Bill committee, complaining that there were too few electric car charging stations in their respective parts of Wales.

One, David Edwards, pointed out that the maximum "comfortable distance" of his Nissan Leaf, between necessary rapid charges, "can be as low as 36 miles [58km]" and suggesting a legal minimum distance of 32km (20 miles) between rapid electric car chargers.

Another private individual, Tom Vanstone of Devon, described his experience of trying to charge his car in Okehampton.

I arrived at the charger to find one of the bays occupied by a diesel car. Luckily EVs are still uncommon here so the other bay was empty. It was a charger provided by SSE Genie Point to "open up" Cornwall in an initiative a couple of years back.

I don't have their special card as it costs £20/annum so have to access through their website page. No 4G connection at the site so I can't connect. Walk across the forecourt to the garage who don't have Wi-Fi but point me in the direction of the cafe. Kindly, they allow me to connect to the Wi-Fi where I cannot activate the charger remotely. So, I walk back to the charger and ring the phone number on the side where I speak to a man who tells me I need to top up my account before I can charge. So, I put £20 on my pre-pay fuel account and then walk back to the cafe where I can remotely initiate the charge from the internet.

After about 10 minutes of this I managed to get it working, but it doesn't need to be that hard.

The Bill committee sits again tomorrow and the progress of the AEV Bill, along with its associated documents, can be tracked on the Parliamentary website. ®

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