Vehicle Technology and Aviation Bill

Written evidence submitted by the Disabled Persons Transport Advisory Committee (DTPAC) (VTAB 21)


1. T he Disabled Persons Transport Advisory Committee (DPTAC) is the expert committee with a statutory duty to advise the DfT and Ministers on access to transport for disabled people.

2. We are grateful for the opportunity to submit evidence in respect of the Vehicle Technology and Aviation Bill 2017. We note in particular, that the enablement of autonomous vehicle technology covered in Part 1 of the Bill has immense potential to radically change the way we think of transportation. It is especially important at these earlier stages to ensure no one is left behind.

3. We welcome the policy that mandatory insurance is configured so there is a single, identifiable point of claim with the insurer, and failing that, the owner. The provisions in respect of apportionment of liability; and in particular, how responsibility will be approached in respect of disabled drivers, is going to be critical to ensure disabled drivers can partake in the autonomous vehicles market with confidence.

4. Our vision can be summarised in two simple principles that should inform the development of vehicle technology:

(1) a utonomous cars should be configured in a flexible enough way that they can be used by almost all disabled persons; and

(2) the regulatory, licensing and insurance rules should not result in a disadvantage or disincentive to disabled travellers .

5. In our submission we highlight considerations aimed at ensuring the rights and interests of disabled persons are given due consideration.

Comments on particular clauses

Part 1: Automated vehicles: Liability of insurers etc.

Clause 1: Listing of automated vehicles by the Secretary of State

6. We note that clause 1(1) applies in respect of vehicles "designed or adapted to be capable, in at least some circumstances or situations, of safely driving themselves without having to be monitored by an individual." It will be important to determine how this standard applies in respect of disabled persons. There should be clarity in respect of what can be expected from disabled individuals in terms of taking back control of the vehicle to ensure persons with disabilities can participate in the benefits of insurance coverage.

7. It is important that legislation should promote the principle that manufacturers of auto mated vehicles should design the Human Machine Interface with the needs of disabled persons in mind. This will be particularly relevant in respect of level 3 SEA automation (where the vehicle drives itself but the passenger can be required to take back control).

Clause 2: Liability of insurer etc. where accident caused by automated vehicle

8. This clause refers to coverage of the "insured person" which we welcome as this can include persons that could not hold a driving licence ; yet the explanatory notes refer to damage to the "driver". It will be helpful to move away from such terminology as the services provided by automated vehicles can expand the number of persons able to use such vehicles beyond those currently able to hold driving licences . We hope this provision would not be construed restrictively, excluding disabled persons.

Clause 3: Contributory negligence etc.

9. Members have expressed concern that contributory negligence may apply (unless specifically excluded) to disabled people to a greater extent than others. For example, requiring some persons to wear safety belts of a particular design or constraining the way wheelchair users can travel. In buses and taxis they are normally rear facing, but on some vehicles the chair and passenger can be carried facing forward. Contributory negligence is, and should remain, a matter of judgment with guidance that applies to all.

Clause 4: Accident resulting from unauthorised alterations or failure to update software

10. We have particular concerns in respect of this provision, to the extent that vehicles for use by disabled persons require specific modifications tailored to individual needs. It will be crucial to account for alterations made in order to satisfy accessibility requirements.

11. Further, in some cases at present the software update pathway is not accessible. A corresponding provision should ensure that software upgrades are automatic or accessible or both. If not, disabled people face a cost or penalty arising from their disability.

12. Care also needs to be taken in case failure to update results in an offence, and the failure to update is as a result of a disability.

13. If an autonomous vehicle is supplied (new or used) to a purchaser and the software is not the most recent would the current owner, who bought in good faith be liable? If so, what is the mitigation in terms of duty to check or ensure? And, if the seller is liable can damages be extended to above pure economic loss? We would welcome clarification in respect of these matters.

Clause 5: Right of insurer etc. to claim against person responsible for accident

14. We would welcome clarification in respect of how this clause applies to remote drivers, or delivery vehicles.

Part 2: Electric Vehicles: Charging

Clause 9: Public charging points: access and connection

15. Members wish to highlight the importance of access to these Charging Points being made available to a wide range of disabled people. This includes not only wheelchair users but also those with disabilities, such as visual impairment, which at present are excluded them from car use but may not be in the future in light of developments in autonomous vehicles.

Clause 11: Information about public charging points

16. Members note the importance that, in the broadest sense, the information should be accessible. This includes the accessibility of an access device, providing the data as open data for app developers, and ensuring that all can access the information. This may, for example, include BSL.

Clause 12: Smart charge points

17. Members note the importance of ensuring that the data interchange be accessible.

Clause 23: Courses offered as an alternative

18. Members note that courses in place of a charge should be accessible, or disabled persons may be excluded from this way of avoiding a cost and points.

March 2017


Prepared 23rd March 2017