Autonomous vehicles—key legal issues
Produced in partnership with Lucy McCormick of Henderson Chambers
Autonomous vehicles—key legal issues

The following PI & Clinical Negligence guidance note Produced in partnership with Lucy McCormick of Henderson Chambers provides comprehensive and up to date legal information covering:

  • Autonomous vehicles—key legal issues
  • Terminology
  • Current technology
  • The state of UK law
  • Liability
  • Product liability
  • Data protection and cyber security
  • Future developments

This Practice Note considers the following issues in relation to the development and use of autonomous and connected vehicles (also referred to as driverless cars or automated vehicles):

  1. Terminology

  2. Current technology

  3. The state of UK law

  4. Liability

  5. Product liability

  6. Data protection and cyber security

  7. Future developments

The majority of government and media attention in relation to driverless cars has been on private road vehicles, which is the focus of this note. However, the technology is applicable in a range of sectors and there is evidence that earlier benefits may be obtained from the development of automated vehicle technology in sectors such as shipping and agriculture.

For a summary of key dates and information relating to the development of autonomous vehicle, see Practice Note: Autonomous vehicles—timeline.

See also:

  1. Practice Note: Autonomous vehicles and insurance

  2. Practice Note: Autonomous and connected vehicles—data protection, privacy and security

  3. Precedent: Autonomous vehicles—training materials


Although the industry uses a range of different terms and abbreviations, the key terminology used in the note is 'autonomous vehicles', 'connected vehicles' and 'ADAS', each of which is described below.

Autonomous vehicles

Autonomous vehicles are often described as driverless cars or self-driving cars—the terms are interchangeable. In the industry, they tend to be known by the blanket term CAV which is short for connected and autonomous vehicles.

An understanding of the definitions used for describing the