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The world that we live in today is one that has been transformed from the inside out multiple times. These global evolutions have brought much to human history and now, as we sand on the verge of the next era, we are having to realign many beliefs and aspects of life to pull us back onto the evolutionary path towards the future. One of the aspects of modern life that is changing is the legal industry, and in particular the automotive laws surrounding autonomous vehicles. While of course the general nature of law is that it is always evolving and realigning with the way of the world at the time, the continuous push towards complete digitalisation has resulted in the most drastic shift in law in recent human history (maybe even ever). In the case of automotive law, the introduction and subsequent fatal learning curve that has come to be on the tail of semi-autonomous vehicles has caused surging demand for adequate laws to be structured and enforced surrounding road incidents involving these vehicles.

Technological enhancement has changed the entire world of automotives. Practically every activity and task involving automotives has been digitally enhanced. Tasks like conducting a MOT search online or checking insurance options here now are one thing, but understanding the legalities surrounding automotive law is quite another. This is especially true now and in terms of semi (and, in the future, entirely) autonomous vehicles. Once a dream created for blockbuster films, television shows, and books, we are now seeing the beginnings of autonomous vehicles make their way onto the market. It has been a process that has not been without its challenges, and unfortunately, not without incident, either. As we currently stand, there have been upwards of four separate incidents where semi-autonomous vehicles were involved in road accidents. It has spurred on the heightened need for stronger enforceable laws surrounding the new iteration of vehicles. It is a movement that has quickly gone global.

While entirely autonomous vehicles are not the reality just yet, car manufacturers like Tesla have begun to roll out the first semi-autonomous vehicles. It has been a few years since these vehicles first started to go into testing phases, but even in that considerably short time frame, several incidents resulting in injuries and even fatalities have occurred. This has prompted the need to draft and enforce new laws surrounding autonomous vehicles separately to traditional automotive laws. The need for this change in jurisdiction is perhaps quite obvious; road incidents involving semi-autonomous (and eventually entirely autonomous) vehicles are more complicated than road incidents involving traditional gas-fuelled, manually-driven vehicles. Why? Because these incidents are often (if not always) the result of a semi-autonomous vehicle veering out of control and causing an accident – often (again, if not always) when the individual in the driver’s seat is not manually controlling the vehicle’s trajectory.

The obvious leading motivator to solidify the autonomous vehicle laws is protection of safely rights in the case of a road incident involving a semi-autonomous or autonomous vehicle. The need to adequately protect and serve all parties in the event of an automotive accident involving a semi-autonomous vehicle became a high priority the moment that these vehicles began rolling out of the manufacturers, and it has become more and more important as time has gone on, and unfortunately as more incidents have occurred. Now, countries and regions the world over are working to structure and enforce new automotive laws. Is the individual in the driver’s seat responsible when their vehicle causes an accident, despite not being in manual control of the vehicle? Should they be charged at all? And exactly who is responsible, if not the driver? These are just a few of the questions being asked, but they are all necessary questions, and they are the queries that have people – and the legal systems the world over – in heated debate over the adequate answers.

The modern world is one that has come to fruition under the advances in digitalisation and technological enhancement. As a result, many aspects of life and industries have inevitably begun to spin their wheels into evolutionary motion, gearing up to realign with the way that the modern world is moving. One of the most heavily affected aspects of modern life is without a doubt the law industry. The nature of law is that it is practically always changing, but when currently undergoing one of the most prominent global evolutions in human history, it has begun to rapidly evolve at speeds that are unparalleled. Arguably the most influenced league of law in recent history is the laws surrounding automotives. With the first semi-autonomous vehicles rolling out, new automotive laws surrounding autonomous vehicles were always an inevitability. Now, as these laws are currently being primed and shaped, a new dawn in automotive law looms – and it is sure to be electrifying.

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