Following the introduction of the Automated Vehicles Draft Bill in Parliament on 8 November 2023, this is the first deep dive into one of its key sections: the core regulatory scheme for automated vehicles (AVs).  As we discussed in our earlier overview post, the Bill addresses seven areas of AV regulation, in a bid to “set the legal framework for the safe deployment of self-driving vehicles in Great Britain”.  On the whole, the Bill goes a long way to ensuring that prospective AV operators have sufficient information in order to begin preparations for the deployment of the technology. 

In this post, we look further into Part 1 of the Bill, which focuses on the core regulatory scheme – which, itself, has seven chapters.

Chapter 1 – Authorisation for Automated Use

This chapter of Part 1 establishes the fundamental principles, safety expectations, and regulatory framework for a vehicle to be licensed as "self-driving" in Great Britain – it is, therefore, arguably the most important chapter of the whole Bill. 

  • The “self-driving test” – provides the criteria in order for this new test to be met.  Satisfying the test is crucial, as it is a prerequisite to authorisation for use as an AV.  At its core, to pass the test, the vehicle must be able to drive whilst being controlled by equipment rather than an individual.  The devil is in the detail however and the industry eagerly awaits details of the self-driving test, likely to be informed in large part by CCAV's CAVPASS programme that has been in development since 2019.
  • Statement of safety principles – Clause 2 requires the Secretary of State to publish a “statement of safety principles”, which seeks to ensure that road safety is improved as a result of the rollout of AVs. These principles will be relevant when deciding whether to authorise a vehicle for automated use. 
  • Coupling up these two concepts – Clause 3 confirms that the Secretary “may” authorise use as an AV where it meets the “self-driving test” and any further authorisation requirements (these further requirements will seek to ensure that the AV complies with the statement of safety principles). No authorisation can occur until the Clause 2 statement has been finalised. 
  • Relevance of the UiC/NUiC distinction – Clause 4 draws on the distinction between a ‘user-in-charge’ (UiC) feature and a ‘no-user-in-charge’ NUiC feature; with the former requiring a user to take charge at some point of the journey, and the latter being able to complete the entire journey alone. Where there are purely UiC features, then the AV must be able to issue transition demands to the user (which is expanded upon in Clause 7). 
  • Authorised self-driving entities (ASDEs) – these are the entities which will be responsible for ensuring that an authorised AVs continues to meet the “self-driving test” and any accompanying requirements. They will subject to the various powers set out in the remainder of this article (for example, they must provide proper information in the authorisation process and can be the subject of compliance notices). 
  • Varying, suspending or withdrawing authorisation for an AV – the government expect that this would usually occur “with the agreement of the ASDE” (as provided for in Clause 8(1)). However, the Secretary may unilaterally suspend or vary authorisation when they merely suspect that either an authorisation requirement or the “self-driving test” is no longer met, or that it has committed a traffic infraction (the Secretary must be satisfied that one of these has occurred to withdraw authorisation). 

Chapter 2 – Licensing of Operators with NUIC vehicles

Chapter 2 provides the Secretary with the power to make regulations to establish the licensing scheme for NUiC vehicles.  As above, NUiC vehicles are able to complete an entire journey with no input by an individual. Therefore, they hold enormous potential to increase efficiency in both freight and passenger services (the latter of which Part 5 focuses on).

Clause 12(5) provides that the licensing scheme established by the Secretary must require for any NUiC operator to:

  1. detect and respond to any problem that arises during a journey;
  2. be of good repute and financial standing. They must also have the capability to meet the requirement within (a) above.    

An overview of the rest of Part 1

  • Chapter 3 – Provision of Information by Regulated Bodies – seeks to ensure proper information provision by authorised self-driving entities (ASDEs) and licensed operators.  It also provides sanctions for failure to provide the necessary information. 
  • Chapter 4 Powers to Investigate Premises Used by Regulated Bodies – provides that the Secretary can obtain a warrant to obtain information that has been deemed necessary.  The remainder of the chapter then expands upon the extent of the powers granted by the warrant and enforcement of it.
  • Chapter 5 Civil Sanctions Against Regulated Bodies – this establishes three civil enforcement mechanisms, namely (a) compliance notices, (b) redress notices, and (c) monetary penalties. To expand upon compliance notices, the Secretary may issue these either to require an existing regulatory requirement to be met, or for action to be taken to reduce the likelihood of a prior traffic infraction being repeated.
  • Chapter 6 Other Regulatory Powers and Duties – for example, this places an obligation on the Secretary to ‘monitor and assess the general performance’ of authorised AVs.  This monitoring must be “effective and proportionate”.  It will be interesting to see how the Secretary ensures that both of these descriptors are met.
  • Chapter 7 Supplementary – covers topics such as the provision of addresses for serving notices on operators, and also seeks to ensure that information is protected as appropriate. 


As with the entire Bill, Part 1 provides prospective AV operators with a comprehensive framework understanding of what they will need to know in order to deploy their technology.  In particular, Chapter 1 provides valuable certainty on when authorisation will be provided and removed (through the “self-driving test” and triggers for removal of authorisation, respectively). 

On the other hand, it will be interesting to see how the yet to be finalised aspects of Part 1 play out – with the “statement of safety principles”, licensing scheme applicable to NUIC vehicles, and monitoring system, all yet to be established by the Secretary. 

Finally, whilst the core regulatory scheme radically reforms the existing framework for regulation of road vehicles and traffic and provides clarity for the AV industry, just as importantly it should give the public reassurance that safety and vigilance are at its heart.

If you would like to discuss further any of the details of the Bill or self-driving vehicle legislation, please contact Brian Wong or Lucy Pegler.

[This article was written by Brian Wong and Callum Duckmanton.]