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Government urged to introduce 'software MoT' for driverless cars

The Government is being urged to introduce a ‘software MoT’ for driverless cars.

The Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) said the Modern Transport Bill, announced during the Queen’s Speech, is an important step to improving road safety and reducing congestion. But it didn’t go far enough.

The Government, it said, needs to introduce legislation to improve cyber security in autonomous vehicles.

IET cyber security expert Hugh Boyes told Fleet News: “We must ensure that cyber security is carefully considered. It is not just about the threat of a car being hacked, it also relates to the overall security and safety of the vehicle’s operation. 

“For that reason it will be crucial the Government introduces proper regulations for autonomous vehicles, which should include the need for a software MoT to be performed on a regular basis.

“This should help to assure the ongoing trustworthiness of the vehicle software and systems.”

The operation of an autonomous vehicle will be heavily dependent on software embedded in the vehicle.

This will provide complex functions that are currently performed by the driver, including interpreting potential hazards, changes in vehicle direction and speed and responding safely to vehicle faults or malfunctions.

“It will be vital to ensure that this software runs smoothly so, in the same way as we take our cars for annual MOTs at the local garage today, in the future we will need to include a check on the software to ensure defects and vulnerabilities are addressed,” said Boyes.

“How these checks happen, and who is responsible for them, is something we should be thinking about now.”

The Government says the Modern Transport Bill will help cut red tape and put the right framework in place to allow innovation, which it claims will put the UK at the forefront of driverless vehicle ownership and use.

Transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin said the Bill will “pave the way for the technologies and transport of tomorrow”.

“We are already developing a charging infrastructure for electric and hybrid vehicles,” he said. “Driverless cars may seem like science fiction to some. But the economic potential of these new technologies is vast and we are determined that Britain will benefit by helping to lead their development.

“Driverless cars will come under new legislation so they can be insured under ordinary policies. These new laws will help autonomous and driverless cars become a real option for private buyers and fleets.”

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