Law Commission seeks advice on regulating self-flying cars

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By Rhys Duncan on


Concerns over safety and liability

The Law Commission of England and Wales has launched a consultation on how best to regulate self-flying and remotely piloted aircraft, both now, and in the future.

The body, which reviews existing laws and recommends reforms to Parliament, has taken aim at automation in the aviation industry, in particular the recent developments in drones and “advanced air mobility vehicles”.

New tech, including vertical take-off and landing (“VTOL”) aircraft, is already under development by companies such as Boeing-owned Wisk Aero to provide transport for short journeys and small numbers of people.

The Law Commission’s key areas of focus are; general safety, looking at the laws on airworthiness, the safety and accessibility of VTOLs, drones regulation, rules of the air, and the civil and criminal liability of people involved in the operation of aircraft with no pilot on board.

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Speaking on the consultation, Law Commissioner Nicholas Paines KC said: “New forms of aircraft are becoming ever more prevalent. It is vital we get the legal framework right so that we can maximise the new opportunities in this field as safely and effectively as possible. We welcome views from anyone involved in this field before we come forward with detailed recommendations.”

Sophie O’Sullivan, Head of Future and Safety Innovation at the UK Civil Aviation Authority, added:

“We are committed to enabling the development of innovation in the aerospace sector as part of our Future of Flight programme, including drones, advanced air mobility vehicles, and autonomous technologies.

Our work with the government, industry, and the Law Commission on this programme moves the UK towards a future in which new technologies can be as a part of our airspace. The right laws and regulations are key in allowing this to become a reality.”

The consultation closes on 27 May 2024, with the recommendations due to be published in late 2025 after a second consultation paper on the impact of automation on air traffic management and air navigation services.

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