Immense interest is being shown in the technology involved in driverless cars and in identifying uses to which these vehicles could eventually be put. There is a high level of commercial opportunity around this subject.
We have written elsewhere about the current law relating to the use of automated vehicles in England and Wales, but one important point to note is that before any vehicle can be used on the public roads at all, it has to have appropriate safety licences and is at all times subject to the Construction and Use Regulations.
All vehicles to be used on the road in Europe must have a European Community Whole Vehicle Licence (ECWVT). To obtain this, they must meet environmental, safety and security standards. The licence covers not just the vehicle as a whole but also component parts and systems. Once vehicle models have an ECWVT, then individual vehicles of that type need only have a Certificate of Conformity. For this, the manufacturing system used to produce them must be capable of conformity with the type approval.
If a vehicle which already has an ECWVT is being modified to enable it to be used on UK roads as a driverless vehicle, careful thought needs to be given to licensing of the modified vehicle as changes to components and systems or the addition of new systems would be likely to render the vehicle non-compliant with its original type approval and Certificate of Conformity.
There are two relevant schemes:
The DVSA has relevant guidance and forms on its website and early consultation is strongly recommended. Where an application for approval is turned down, the whole process can be appealed.