Britain Holds Makers Liable for Self-Driving Car Crashes in New Legislation

UK Government Introduces Legal Framework to Support Safe Development of Autonomous Vehicles

In a groundbreaking move, the British government has announced that the makers, rather than the owners, of self-driving cars will be held legally liable for any accidents or crashes involving autonomous vehicles. The decision, which was unveiled by King Charles as part of the government’s legislative agenda, aims to provide clarity and establish liability in the emerging field of autonomous vehicles. This move has been welcomed by insurers and autonomous vehicle startups, who believe it will promote road safety, boost the economy, and create green jobs.

1: Clear Liability for Insurers and Autonomous Vehicle Startups

The decision to hold the makers of self-driving cars responsible for accidents is seen as a significant step forward for insurers and autonomous vehicle startups in the UK. Tara Foley, head of UK and Ireland operations for global insurer AXA, praised the move, stating that it would provide crucial clarity for establishing liability and ensure the safe commercial development of autonomous vehicles. This clarity is essential for insurers to offer coverage and for startups to continue investing in research and development.

2: Boosting Investments and Talent Base in the UK

The absence of legislation regulating autonomous vehicle technology had raised concerns that the UK could lose out on investments, with startups potentially relocating their testing activities to other countries. However, the announcement of the Automated Vehicles Bill has instilled confidence in the industry. Alex Kendall, CEO of AV startup Wayve, expressed his optimism, highlighting the importance of the new legislation in attracting investments and growing the talent base in the UK. Wayve, which has secured significant funding from investors, including Microsoft, believes that the bill will pave the way for further advancements in autonomous vehicle technology.

3: Promoting Safety and Public Acceptance

The of the bill is expected to enhance safety measures and establish a robust framework for investigating incidents involving autonomous vehicles. By holding companies accountable for the actions of self-driving cars while in autonomous mode, the government aims to ensure user protection and promote safety within the autonomous vehicle industry. This move aligns with the views of industry experts who believe that national regulatory frameworks and clear legal liability are crucial for gaining public acceptance of autonomous vehicles and enabling insurers to provide coverage.

4: Learning from International Experiences

The US market has been at the forefront of testing self-driving cars, with individual states leading the way in implementing regulations. However, recent incidents have highlighted the need for stringent guidelines and safety measures. Last month, California regulators ordered General Motors’ driverless car unit, Cruise, to remove its vehicles from state roads due to safety concerns. The proposed framework in the UK aims to avoid similar situations by clearly delineating responsibilities and ensuring the safe development of autonomous vehicles. Industry experts, such as Paul Newman, founder of Oxford-based AV software firm Oxa, believe that the UK has an opportunity to establish frameworks that build public trust and embrace the inevitability of autonomous vehicle technology.


Britain’s decision to hold the makers of self-driving cars liable for accidents represents a significant step forward in the development of autonomous vehicles. The of the Automated Vehicles Bill provides clarity and establishes legal frameworks that will support the safe commercial development of this emerging industry. By promoting safety, providing clarity for insurers, and attracting investments, the UK aims to position itself as a leader in autonomous vehicle technology. With this legislation, the government hopes to build public trust and accelerate the adoption of autonomous vehicles, while ensuring the highest standards of safety on the roads.