09:49, December 14 357 0 theguardian.com

2017-12-14 09:49:05
Laws for safe use of driverless cars to be ready by 2021

Legislation to promote safe use of driverless cars is to be developed by the Law Commission to be ready as early as 2021, supporting advances in autonomous vehicle technology.

Revealing an ambitious programme of work for next year, the body which reviews parliamentary acts and identifies gaps in regulations will also update laws controlling surrogacy and governing the disposal of dead bodies.

The automated vehicle project is being launched at the request of the government’s Centre for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles (CCAV), which has asked for a “modern and robust” package of reforms as part of public transport networks and on-demand passenger services by 2021.

The review is likely to consider the difficult question of who is liable in an accident involving a driverless bus or car – the manufacturer, operator or other drivers. “Automated vehicles do not readily fit within existing legal frameworks,” the commission said, “so the review will identify pressing problems in the law that may be barriers to the use of automated vehicles, as well as considering broader, longer-term reforms.”

The commission said it aimed to “promote public confidence in the safe use of automated vehicles, and to ensure the UK has a vibrant, world-leading connected and automated vehicles industry”.

On surrogacy, the commission said hundreds of children were born in the UK every year as a result of agreements between women who bear a child and those who wish to become parents. The arrangements are controlled by the Surrogacy Arrangements Act 1985 and certain provisions of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 2008.

“The greater acceptance of same-sex relationships, with the introduction of civil partnerships and the extension of marriage, is one of a number of factors likely to result in an increase in the number of children born as a result of a surrogacy arrangement,” the commission said.

“For a same-sex male couple, surrogacy is the only formal way of having a child who is biologically related to one of the intended parents. Surrogacy may also be an important route to parenthood for some transgender people.”

Courts have struggled to implement the statutory conditions for a parental order, the commission said, because the paramount position of the child’s best interests makes it difficult for the court to refuse to recognise an existing relationship between the intended parents and child. Surrogacy arrangements also raise unresolved issues of children’s rights to access information about their parentage, both genetic and gestational.

New methods for the disposal of human bodies are being developed including resomation, using alkaline hydrolysis to reduce the body to ash, and promession/cryomation, using liquid nitrogen to crystallise the body and vibration to disintegrate it into particles. Such methods “are completely unregulated here, which is an unsatisfactory position”, the commission said.

“The legislation governing more traditional methods of disposal is outdated, piecemeal and complex. The law does not ensure that a person’s own wishes as to the disposal of their remains are carried out, leading to disputes where family members disagree. Disputes also arise as to entitlement to a person’s remains.“