back to article British industry calls for regulation of autonomous vehicles

The UK government should create laws common to autonomous vehicles to avoid a patchwork approach to specific technologies, according to industry figures speaking to MPs. As various levels of automation are planned for modes of transport including cars, buses, delivery robots, trains and aeroplanes, the UK should create a …

  1. alain williams Silver badge

    We do not want "British" regulations

    Autonomous vehicles are being developed all over the world; there should be one set of rules that manufacturers can build to, certify and then sell. Having similar, but slightly different, standards would be a nightmare.

    Variations in how the "standard" vehicles are used to suit local conditions might be OK, but the way that they are built must be standard. Even right/left hand drive is a pain that we would (hopefully) not repeat today.

    Common standards are good, not something that the Brexit brigade understands.

    1. graeme leggett Silver badge

      Re: We do not want "British" regulations

      we're only going to get British regulations for a while.

      Quite a lot of regulatory frameworks are national or groups-of-nations specific; harmonisation between these groups to common purpose follows

      Just accept for the moment that an overall framework to catch all with detail on each area following is better than splintered regulations

      1. gandalfcn Silver badge

        Re: We do not want "British" regulations

        "Just accept for the moment that an overall framework to catch all with detail on each area following is better than splintered regulations" You obviouisly donlt kniow many MPs , especially of the Tory flavour. The UK is still not properly metric ffs.

        1. Furious Reg reader John

          Re: We do not want "British" regulations

          And you obviously don't know regulation processes.

    2. John69

      Re: We do not want "British" regulations

      Historically national regulations come before international ones. Obviously the right international regulations will be better than the right national regulations, but that is no reason not to implement the national regulations before the technology hits the street.

      1. alain williams Silver badge

        Re: We do not want "British" regulations

        before the technology hits the street

        I would have thought that that would have been part of what regulations would have tried to prevent :-)

        1. Version 1.0 Silver badge
          Childcatcher

          Re: We do not want "British" regulations

          Regulations need to exist to ensure product safety but now everyone is only interested in ensuring corporate profits.

          1. gandalfcn Silver badge

            Re: We do not want "British" regulations

            "only interested in ensuring corporate profits." Therefore Bre4xit and pandering to Septicland.

      2. Jellied Eel Silver badge

        Re: We do not want "British" regulations

        ...but that is no reason not to implement the national regulations before the technology hits the street.

        Some of them already have. I have the lil Starship troopers trundling around near me. They're kinda fun to watch, and I've yet to see one on it's back or side, become a mugging victim or go all Maximum Overdrive on me. I've also managed to resist doing stuff like adding clown noses to them despite them being kinda cute.

        Main challenge seems to be they do share the pavement, which is also shared by bicycles, mobility scooters, e-scooters, dog walkers with those annoying extending trip-wire leads.. hh, and pedestrians. But it seems manageable so far, although competition may increase. Like if there's a version that can carry a slab or three of beer, I may use them. Otherwise only fun I've had is either watching them navigate the chicane barriers on footpaths, and figuring out their prioritisation rules. From entirely accidental observations, it seems like they're set to give way to pedestrians, which I guess is as it should be on footpaths. Also wondered sometimes when they pause, if they're waiting for a human operator to take over and get them through those barriers.

        1. LybsterRoy Silver badge

          Re: We do not want "British" regulations

          How does it ring your doorbell? Or is it owned by Hermes (whatever they#'re called now) and just dump stuff somewhere near the door?

          1. Jellied Eel Silver badge

            Re: We do not want "British" regulations

            How does it ring your doorbell?

            As I understand it, it's currently app-based. Local Co-op and some other stores use it. So order online, choose delivery by Starship and it'll send a message to your smart phone when it arrives. Not checked if it expects an app for that, or just texts. But raises interesting possibilities for online tracking. Have a beer-bot that can home in on your current mobile location and deliver you essential supplies. I guess it could be possible to integrate into doorbells like Rings to ring remotely, but that would probably need Amazon to ok it, and they're currently competitors. Or future purchasers. Practically the phone system seems more sensible anyway.

            For me, I guess the main downside would be it's load volume and maybe weight. So Starships look like they can carry a couple of shopping bags, but not a weekly family shop. Or I guess it'd be easy to set up a lil road-train of trundlebots and arrange packet delivery. Not sure if there's a weight limit, so if I could use them to summon me tins of stuff and I can just carry the light bits. I guess shoppers are also at the mercy of whoever packs them and how determined they are to pack in things like bread and eggs. Based on the number I see, they do seem to be getting more popular.

            There's also some things I didn't expect to see. My usual walk to the shops takes me past a couple of schools, but haven't seen any kids bot-baiting. I guess they also create navigation hazards given there's usually a herd of moms with pushchairs that congregate outside a primary school, completely blocking the path. Then a secondary school where they'd have to navigate all the cars. They're far more a hazard to other pavement users than the bots have been. Or perhaps this is a future use-case. Make child sized Starships that can deliver kids to the primary school. Also kinda curious how congestion is managed at the store end.

            Otherwise I guess there's some potential additions. A couple of times I've had pavement stand-offs where footpath crosses a road, so either waiting to let the bot go, or not being sure where it's going. They do have turn signals, and can play messages. I usually assume I'm more agile and better at collision avoidance and give them space. Not sure if design psychology plays a part there and people's attitudes would change if they looked more aggressive. But currently they seem like a good idea, challenge will be dealing with increased competition for pavement space. Or how practical they'd be in towns where pavements are narrower and there's a lot more pavement parking.

        2. MyffyW Silver badge

          Re: We do not want "British" regulations

          We saw one of the trundle-bots around our way and it reminded me of 1980s must-have toy, Bigtrak. The trundle-bot got confused by the college kids at the bus stop ...

    3. gandalfcn Silver badge

      Re: We do not want "British" regulations

      "Common standards are good, not something that the Brexit brigade understands." or their apologists, who you have upset. Am I surprised? Not at all. The main problem is that the UK refuses to co-operate in favour of perfidy.

    4. jollyboyspecial

      Re: We do not want "British" regulations

      There is a simple reason why we need "British" regulations: These vehicles will be used on British roads which are subject to British traffic law. Therefore the regulations need to integrate with British traffic law.

      There is a very good reason why there's no point even trying to have global regulations: It many years for all nations to agree on a set of regulations (if they ever agree at all) which would leave a vacuum of zero regulation until it was finalized. This would hold up the deployment of autonomous vehicles.

      1. EBG

        Re: We do not want "British" regulations

        Having national level regulators hollowed out makes it much easier for multinationals to control the regulators. We struggle at the UK level, but at least there is some visibility, and if we all worked hard at it, we would have some chance on bring people to account. Brussels lobbying is beyond democratic reach.

  2. VoiceOfTruth

    Regulations is in the hand of the makers

    Does the UK make autonomous driving cars?

    We probably have some spare civil servants who can sit around discussing things they don't understand while drinking tea. By the time they get round to regulations v1, the cars will already be on v5.

    1. Paul Kinsler

      Re: Does the UK make autonomous driving cars?

      There are at least a range of University groups which do research on such things ...

    2. Fonant

      Re: Regulations is in the hand of the makers

      Actually the regulations are in the hand of governments.

      The makers have the question "how safe does our thing have to be?", and that can only be answered by society, or by government as a proxy.

      The questions almost always boil down to moral ones. Would we accept autonomous vehicles killing people are roughly the same rate as human-driven cars do? Or half that rate? Or a tenth?

    3. jollyboyspecial

      Re: Regulations is in the hand of the makers

      Why should regulation be in the hands of the makers? That's the last place you would want that power to be.

      No industry should ever be self regulating. Remember when Boeing was allowed to certify it's own plane? That went well.

  3. Red Ted

    Autonomous trains

    I think you'll find that there are already a number of mass transit autonomous trains in the UK alone.

    Technically the Victoria London Underground line has been so from 1968.

    1. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

      Re: Autonomous trains

      Don't forget the DLR (Dockland Light Railway).

      1. werdsmith Silver badge

        Re: Autonomous trains

        That one at Stansted that has to take a run up to get up a slope.

  4. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge
    Facepalm

    Until there are an agreed set of regulations

    the notoriously risk averse insurance industry will be free to say 'NO' and decline cover to anyone wanting to insure such a vehicle. That would keep them off the road given the current laws.

    1. Rol

      Re: Until there are an agreed set of regulations

      In that case, it would make a whole heap of sense if the insurance was dealt with by the manufacturer. Basically, the vehicle is provided to you with the insurance already in place for when it is running under autonomous mode. You the driver need only get insurance for the times the vehicle is under your control, or is parked up.

      So when in autonomous mode, any accidents will be covered by the manufacturer's insurance, and if it gets set on fire outside your house, or you drive it into a wall, then it is your insurance that covers that.

      For sanity's sake, perhaps these vehicles should only be offered as long term rentals, allowing the manufacturer to more easily perform upgrades and keep them as standard. You've seen the diabolical "upgrades" your neighbour has done to their vehicle, haven't you!

      1. Johnb89

        Re: Until there are an agreed set of regulations

        If only that were the case. Several manufacturers (can't be bothered to look it up) have said aloud that in their view the 'driver' is still legally liable for what the car does in autonomous mode.

        Which makes perfect sense, if you think about it. In stupid land.

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: Until there are an agreed set of regulations

          In a fully autonomous vehicle,I'd expect the courts to rule that the "driver" is the software the first time it goes to court. After all, in fully autonomous, there won't be any "user controls" other than to set the destination and maybe choose the type of route, eg quickest, shortest etc as SatNavs do now..

          We never get to "own" commercial s/w. It's only ever licenced to us, therefore the supplier of the software is responsible for it's actions.

      2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: Until there are an agreed set of regulations

        "For sanity's sake, perhaps these vehicles Operating Systems should only be offered as long term rentals, allowing the manufacturer to more easily perform upgrades and keep them as standard. You've seen the diabolical "upgrades" your neighbour Microsoft has done to their vehicle OS, haven't you!"

        FTFY

        In light of that, do we want the manufactures to have total control of your "autonomous" car?

    2. EBG

      Re: Until there are an agreed set of regulations

      Not the game it wants to play. They want the business, and will go along with, and even promote, a system where the manufactures are in the clear if they've ticked the right boxes.

    3. jollyboyspecial

      Re: Until there are an agreed set of regulations

      When it comes to being risk averse I think the manufacturers will be the one's showing that particular behaviour.

      As it stands the government's policy is that liability will fall on the manufacturer for any collision caused by a fully autonomous car. For a car with driver assist mode the liability will fall upon the driver. This being the case I think it unlikely that any manufacturer will be overly keen to sell cars as fully autonomous in the UK. More likely they will label the features as driver assist. It's not so much the financial liability of rear ending a taxi that will make them risk averse, it's the potential bad publicity of their being found guilty of causing death by careless driving that will make them think twice.

  5. nautica Silver badge
    Boffin

    Someone says (here), "We do not want British regulations...", but do not tell us what kind they do want.

    At least the British are forward-looking enough to realize that there must exist some sort of control over this already-over-hyped activity, and that someone has to take the lead.

    Britain: How about starting with, "Absolutely, and under any and all circumstances, DO NO HARM."

    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    “The secret of getting ahead is getting started. The secret of getting started is breaking your complex overwhelming tasks into small manageable tasks, and starting on the first one.”― Mark Twain

    1. Fonant

      The secret to getting started on the first task is to make preparations to start the first task.

      1. Jellied Eel Silver badge

        ... is to make preparations to start the first task.

        Which is, of course, to make a mug of tea, or coffee..

    2. Jason Bloomberg Silver badge

      Britain: How about starting with, "Absolutely, and under any and all circumstances, DO NO HARM."

      Seems unlikely while we have governments and Transport Ministers authorising the use of motorway hard shoulders as running lanes and allowing e-scooter use despite the huge potential for harm everyone else could see from a mile away.

      1. gandalfcn Silver badge

        Seems unlikely while we have governments led by donkeys and godbotherers.

    3. gandalfcn Silver badge

      "At least the British are forward-looking". LOL. Which is why we left the EU, why the currency has been depreciating for a long time, why the economy is going south and so on.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Regulate Spyware in Cars

    When will they regulate location tracking and spyware - never- because it is too useful for govt revenue generation, warfare, and police and spooks monitoring, not to mention all the other crooks.

    The data generated on people from cars is far too important to be swept under the carpet and ignored as is happening at present.

    Where is the outcry from the privacy conscious?

    I will never buy an electric car until this is tackled - there is no data leakage from my petrol car except by the well known abuse of cameras on the roads, and of course dashcams, mobile phones, "intelligent" homes systems etc etc etc.

    Does nobody care about all these post-Orwellian systems?

    No - of course this is the age of social media and reality TV where people qeueue up to be tracked 24 hours a day.

    Why can people rebel against vaccines as state control, but ignore the bigger problem?

    1. Lil Endian Silver badge

      Re: Regulate Spyware in Cars

      In my home town there is residents' parking[1]. It's been about for more than 30 years. Until around six months ago, residents and visitors displayed a resident/visitor permit in their windshield. Now it's gone paperless. Now the council staff roam the streets with ANPR devices, slurping all of that lovely data. So previously, vehicles displaying valid permits would be simply ignored; no/invalid permit, stick 'em on. Now a vehicle's location is documented, regardless. But a local council wouldn't abuse that now, would they?

      [1] For those not suffering residents' parking schemes, it's a local council system designed to ensure that only residents and their visitors can legally park in the restricted areas.

  7. Tron Silver badge

    UK standards - Leveraging minimalism is warehouses, shops and homes.

    Post-Brexit, setting a UK-only standard on tech effectively wipes the shelves of products overnight. There is a reason why Malta doesn't have its own rules on tech products. When we were in the EU we had a say in EU standards. Now we accept large trading bloc standards or go without.

    1. Roland6 Silver badge

      Re: UK standards - Leveraging minimalism is warehouses, shops and homes.

      Pre-Brexit the UK often started work on standards, realised it would need to be a much large effort and promote it into the EU and ISO forums.

      Post-Brexit the UK can and should start work on standards, however getting them into other forums is just going to take a little more work.

      1. Jellied Eel Silver badge

        Re: UK standards - Leveraging minimalism is warehouses, shops and homes.

        Pre-Brexit the UK often started work on standards, realised it would need to be a much large effort and promote it into the EU and ISO forums.

        Yup. Plus any decent standard should really be set at the ISO-level, even though that process is a special circle of hell. But obviously creates problems when EU and ISO standards diverge. At least post-Brexit, the UK has more choice. We're also still a relatively large market for the EU, and still able to have some influence over their standards processes. As do other countries, ie Brussels isn't exactly short of US and other nationality's lobbyists.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: UK standards - Leveraging minimalism is warehouses, shops and homes.

      Malta having half the population of a rural British county is an element of that. If it wasn't in EU then it would probably find itself in alignment with nearest large country.

      But Britain having certain standards such as electrical ones does not prevent supply of tech - where there is a sufficient market, suppliers find a way to supply albeit at a premium.

  8. Vader

    Maybe we should start with the MP's and regulate them properly and hold then to account. Once thats actually sorted then look at other problems.

    1. Lil Endian Silver badge

      And we can tell our grandchildren, we were there for Vader's first stand up comedy routine!!!

      Joking aside, I agree. We need to insist on the right to recall shit MPs. I've heard arguments that recall allows the opposition's supporters to mess with recall, but why is it not possible to only allow those that voted in an MP to withdraw their vote? Enough votes withdrawn, no longer a majority, election initiated. ("I voted for you because you said you'd do this thing. You haven't. On yer bike.")

      1. LybsterRoy Silver badge

        Maybe you've forgotten but your vote is meant to be private.

        1. Spazturtle Silver badge

          Not really, when you get your polling card they write the cards serial number down next to your name, and when counting the votes they write down the cards serial number and it's vote, this is all then stored in a database. So the electoral commission know who you voted for.

          1. MrReynolds2U

            Nope. Those records are kept separately in government storage and only ever used together to investigation potential fraud and even then, a high court judgement would be required to unseal the records.

            In theory this could be done, but in practice, it just isn't. It would be illegal. Obviously where the security services are involved, YMMV.

          2. Jason Bloomberg Silver badge

            Not really, when you get your polling card they write the cards serial number down next to your name, and when counting the votes they write down the cards serial number and it's vote, this is all then stored in a database. So the electoral commission know who you voted for.

            Not quite to not at all.

            A ballot paper has two parts; a receipt part which is kept by officials which gets the voter's registration number written upon it. The part you are handed to express your vote. Both parts have the ballot paper's number encoded on it as a sequence of punched holes.

            The receipt part which officials retain and the part with the vote are both kept but never married-up unless there needs to be an investigation into the vote. They not only need to be married-up but need to be matched to the registration list to determine who actually cast that vote. All three things are needed to identify a vote, just two isn't enough.

            While it can be done it is not done by rote, rarely done at all. There is no correlating data stored in any database so political parties, the council, and electoral commission, do not know who you voted for.

            It would be possible to undertake such a task to determine who voted for a particular candidate being recalled but it's an awful lot of work and would identify who voted for whom, worse, it would be easy to tell who voted for the candidate if only those received recall voting invites.

            You would need to send invites to everyone, with either a 'can' or 'cannot' vote card, or have to marry-up this and previous votes to only count those entitled to recall. It may also encourage those not entitled to vote to commit fraud to do so.

            It's much easier and cheaper to just allow everyone to vote in a recall and, as those elected are meant to represent everyone, including those who didn't vote for them, plus those who made some kind of protest vote safe in the knowledge they would be elected anyway, it's not unreasonable everyone should get a say on whether they are doing a good job or should be recalled..

            1. Lil Endian Silver badge

              Thanks Jason, I can use your post to outline my thoughts. Granted, not necessarily a recall in the usual sense, but a re-election trigger at least and tantamount to a recall (the bad MP lost his/her majority, and everyone knows it).

              ...and would identify who voted for whom... --- Nope! This is important :) This could be divulged under nefarious circumstances, but let's assume some integrity is possible. Things can be sorted out for security/integrity later, let me start here..

              To demonstrate, two tables are required:

              [A] Voter: Ballot Serial Number and Voter Name

              [B] Vote: Ballot Serial Number and Vote (Candidate Voted For)

              Voting

              Voter appears at polling station to vote, receives ballot paper:

              A ballot paper has two parts; a receipt part which is kept by officials which gets the voter's registration number written upon it. The part you are handed to express your vote. Both parts have the ballot paper's number [Ballot Serial Number] encoded on it as a sequence of punched holes.

              Votes counted, as currently done.

              Data entry to table [A]

              Data entry to table [B] -- This must match the ballot count as is currently performed.

              Recall

              Voter appears at [official office]

              "I want to withdraw my vote" - proves identity. [Ballot Serial Number] is retrieved from [A] - vote is removed from [B] using [Ballot Serial Number].

              [B] shows a new vote total, if majority is lost, election triggered.

              ----------------------

              This doesn't require electronic voting. It doesn't reveal the voter's choices.

              ----------------------

              It's much easier and cheaper to just allow everyone to vote in a recall and, as those elected are meant to represent everyone, including those who didn't vote for them, plus those who made some kind of protest vote safe in the knowledge they would be elected anyway, it's not unreasonable everyone should get a say on whether they are doing a good job or should be recalled..

              Disagree. Someone that already didn't vote for someone obviously wants to vote them out - that's how recalls are abused.

        2. Lil Endian Silver badge

          Do you think a vote's not registered against the voter's identifying key? Because it is. TPTB can easily correlate and corroborate validity of a retraction, ensuring identity and, of course, that'd never leak - because TPTB are highly trustworthy, and encryption prevails. (OK, I might have ended with a bit of sarc there, I'm sure we all know why.)

          This could be done without human interaction, if it's a no-go otherwise. I think it's imperative to facilitate a workable recall system. MPs need to be able to be sacked by the voters. Too long have they been unaccountable.

          1. Jellied Eel Silver badge

            This could be done without human interaction, if it's a no-go otherwise

            Currently I think it's taken pretty seriously, and does require human interaction. When I played this game, I learned that ballot papers are sealed back in boxes, taken away and hidden in salt mines or other secure storage locations. Can't remember how long they're kept for, but tampering should in theory be obvious. Problem is if we keep shifting to electronic voting because then it becomes a lot easier to do datamining and other shenanigans.

            1. Lil Endian Silver badge

              Currently I think it's taken pretty seriously, and does require human interaction.

              There is no "currently" with what I'm suggesting, so I don't know what you're on about.

              1. Jellied Eel Silver badge

                There is no "currently" with what I'm suggesting, so I don't know what you're on about.

                I think it's pretty clear one of us doesn't. Previously you said-

                Someone that already didn't vote for someone obviously wants to vote them out - that's how recalls are abused

                And a convoluted scheme that attempts to restrict recall votes to people who previously voted them into office. So first, you'd just need to identify those voters. Then you'd have to locate them. Then you'd have to exclude voters who'd moved away from the constituency and are thus no longer represented by the subject of the recall. You'd probably also want to exclude any voters who'd died, but dead people can still vote. In Pennsylvania, dead people can even be elected to state senates. As people have often said though, democracy is the least worst option. Then you'd also have to deal with potential voter intimidation by people hanging around polling stations muttering "we know where you live". It can be fun sometimes just convincing voters that the people hanging around polling stations collecting card numbers aren't up to no good, and just trying to see who's voted. Not how.

                Alternatively, we have the Recall of MPs Act that makes the procedure simpler, mostly safer and is more democratic. If the MP's a wrong'un, the consituency runs a recall petition. If at least 10% of the electorate signs the petion, there's a recall election and every voter gets to participate in a democratic process. Well, no system is perfect. See Tower Hamlets for more info.

                1. Lil Endian Silver badge
                  Thumb Down

                  Well, if you're going to quote at least get the timeline correct.

                  Someone that already didn't vote for someone obviously wants to vote them out - that's how recalls are abused -- was from my most recent post. That didn't exist when I said There is no "currently" with what I'm suggesting, so I don't know what you're on about.

                  You are imagining things that I've not said and ignoring things that I have said, never mind.

                2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

                  "Alternatively, we have the Recall of MPs Act that makes the procedure simpler, mostly safer and is more democratic. If the MP's a wrong'un, the consituency runs a recall petition. If at least 10% of the electorate signs the petion, there's a recall election and every voter gets to participate in a democratic process. Well, no system is perfect. See Tower Hamlets for more info."

                  Yeah, but the requires the MP to have either:

                  1. A custodial prison sentence (including a suspended sentence);

                  2. Suspension from the House of at least 10 sitting days or 14 calendar days, following a report by the Committee on Standards;

                  Only then does the 10% of constituents petition kick in. And bear in mind that 10% of constituents is quite a lot of people in constituency's where the voter turnout is often quite low. People who don't care enough to vote in the first place probably also will not bother signing a recall petition. eg if only 20% of people vote, they'll be split between the parties anyway so even then it takes not just all those who voted against the incumbent but likely a significant portion of those who DID vote for him/her. So, even if there was a change such that anyone could start a recall petition just because they think their MP is shit at the job, it's still quite a high bar. Opposition trying to abuse the system would need to be well coordinated and highly visible to the public to have a chance at succeeding. Maybe allow constituent initiated recall petitions but raise the bar a tad more so the MP needs to be really shit to collect enough opposition to cause a recall?

      2. Jellied Eel Silver badge

        I've heard arguments that recall allows the opposition's supporters to mess with recall, but why is it not possible to only allow those that voted in an MP to withdraw their vote?

        Most people don't understand the way the political game gets played. Politicians probably prefer to keep things that way. So back when I was a student, I thought it might be fun to explore this. Town had something like 50,000 registered Labour, 30,000 LibDems and about 500 Conservatives. So obviously it would be easier to 'influence' the local Tories, and the constiuencies do have some power. Even if that's only to vote 'Yes' on the candidate central office parachutes in. But if you can sign up enough new members, you can always vote 'No', and nominate your own. I think in a lot of places, it'd probably be easier to get a 'green' or independent MP elected if they just joined their local Conservative party. Once elected, they could always cross-bench, and if you control a majority in the local party, couldn't be recalled. Labour gets a bit more complicated given their block votes, but the joy of democracy is figuring out ways to abuse it, especially if they don't fall foul of electoral laws.

        Personally, I think voting should be compulsory, and maybe a register of 'party members'. But the last bit would also have potentially large privacy complications, even though it could make our system a bit more democratic.

        1. nobody who matters

          "......Once elected, they could always cross-bench...."

          No, they couldn't - there are no cross benches in the Commons. Cross benches are a Lords thing.

          Getting elected as a representative for a party that your views don't altogether align with is relatively common however - the reason why a significant number of current Conservative MPs appear to be Lib-Dems wearing a blue overcoat.

          1. Jellied Eel Silver badge

            No, they couldn't - there are no cross benches in the Commons. Cross benches are a Lords thing.

            My bad. So just cross the aisle and go sit on the opposition benches. Bit of a silly tradition anyway, especially when the rabble has grown so there's not enough seats anyway.

  9. EBG

    the total cock-up

    over smart motorways should give us a clue. There was never a proper analysis, design, and regulatory oversight of what are safety critical systems. Just a piss-poor implementation at minimum cost pushed through because politicians bought the hype of "Intelligent Mobility".

    And if we couldn't get that right, we have zero chance with autonomous vehicles.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: the total cock-up

      Never assume something as simple as political a cockup when there are large sums of money to be made.

      Smart motorways was never about traffic congestion. It was just a excuse to get all the computers. networks, cameras and monitoring systems in place so that when they decide to do "road pricing", it can be rolled out with a simple and cheap software update.

      It has already been decided that road pricing is going to happen, that's why no party is making any serious effort to oppose the London ULEZ expansion. They are just trying to sneak it in a bit at a time to avoid a huge public backlash.

      1. EBG

        Re: the total cock-up

        I agree, and I wasn't assuming it was just the politicians. The hype that they bought was fed to them by "interested parties".

        Also regulation being aimed at preventing all harm is a straw man. No-one claims it should.

      2. EBG

        Re: the total cock-up

        Sorry added but at the end was for a different reply

      3. jollyboyspecial

        Re: the total cock-up

        "Smart motorways was never about traffic congestion. It was just a excuse to get all the computers. networks, cameras and monitoring systems in place so that when they decide to do "road pricing", it can be rolled out with a simple and cheap software update."

        Our current government don't like the idea of road pricing. They know that a lot of people will end up paying less under road pricing for a start, but mostly they realise that if they want to make more money it's much easier to increase VED particularly on the zero and low VED vehicles. The low emissions stuff that is currently £30pa or whatever it is will be very easy to increase and make a packet. Bear in mind that some of the cars in that band are getting long in the tooth now. It is widely accepted (but not necessarily true) that older vehicles pollute more. So it would be easy to incrase VED on older cars increasing revenue massively. And of course this is in line with Tory policies of finding ways to increase taxes on the impecunious while leaving the better off untouched.

        Smart motorways were a classic case of not so much function creep and function leap in a government drive to save money. When smart motorways came along they were originally a way to improve traffic flow originated by highways engineers. Whether or not the technology actually worked will be debated until the cows come home. However what is important about that is that all lane running was not part of the plan for smart motorways. All lane running at peak times was something that was trialled in a handful of locations. One of these wasn't far from where I am now and it wasn't part of the smart motorways scheme. The original idea was that a manually controlled system would be implemented where the hard shoulder could be opened for traffic when the motorway got busy. The weird thing is that I remember clearly that the signs would often read something along the lines of "hard shoulder closed due to congestion" so somewhere along the line the idea of opening the hard shoulder to ease congestion got lost. So there was the smart motorways scheme and the all lane running trial then there was a third project. Way back when the government earmarked a lot of motoways for widening to ease congestion when there was plenty of money about. Then they found a couple of problems first some sections simply couldn't have been widened. Well they could but the amount of work would have been prohibitive - this particularly applied to urban motorways where either elevated sections would have required major civils to widen or where there wasn't space to widen the road without some serious urban remodelling (ie knocking a lot of stuff down). At this point it was announced that for some "short" sections of road all lane running would be the solution. But not to worry this would be cleverly electronically controlled by deploying smart motorways on these sections. Then for various reasons the government decided that they couldn't afford the widening program even in areas where there was space to add an extra lane and that all lane running would be a much cheaper solution. As such there are sections of motorway that were widened with an extra lane and still included a hard shoulder. It could be a coincidence, but most of these seem to have been in the south east of England. Elsewhere the extra lane was added by employing all lane running.

        Oddly enough the stretch of motorway where all lane running was trialled not far from here still has the same all lane running system on it and isn't part of a smart motorway. The smart motorway starts a few miles later. It's one of the many weird anomalies that characterise Britain's disjointed motorway "system".

      4. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: the total cock-up

        "Smart motorways was never about traffic congestion. It was just a excuse to get all the computers. networks, cameras and monitoring systems in place so that when they decide to do "road pricing", it can be rolled out with a simple and cheap software update."

        Maybe, but I'm not so sure about that. There was already a vast network of ANPR cameras across the motorway network before the first "smart" motorways, said network being far cheaper and rapidly expandable compared to "upgrading" existing motorways to "smart" ones. If there was any shenanigans involved, it was either saving money on motorway widening and/or ancillary roads or diverting money to the companies contracting to install the kit. Personally I think it was purely a money saving exercise and someone convinced the Government this was the cheapest option.

  10. wiggers

    Regulation = crystal ball gazing

    Regulation is the attempt to predict all possible harms from a new technology or application thereof by those not necessarily qualified. Virtually impossible and restricts potential benefits.

    Far better is the law of Tort. Have penalties for causing harm, to focus the minds of those developing the tech to design-in safety.

    "First, do no harm."

    1. Johnb89

      Re: Regulation = crystal ball gazing

      Indeed. If 'your'* software is in charge of the car, then 'you' are liable for what it does as if 'you' were driving.

      *you being whoever signs off the release of it, more or less.

      PS, the 'first do no harm' thing is too strong for autonomous vehicles, IMHO. That would lead to having no vehicles at all, including delivering food to shops, ambulances and whatnot.

    2. EBG

      down arrowed

      Being able to sue is no use to me if I've been killed as part of an AV's beta test

  11. Michael Strorm Silver badge

    Today's sarky comment on the chosen front-page thumbnail

    "Look at this fool! So lazy and inattentive has he become as a result of his AI driver that he hasn't even noticed that the side of his car has been totally ripped off."

    Meanwhile, the AI says "Would have got him too if he hadn't remembered to wear his bloody seatbelt."

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