Humble civil servant: Name public electric car chargers after me

Imagine a future where we all plug into John Hayes MP

AEV Bill The minister in charge of Blighty's latest driverless car law has suggested that public charging points be named after him.

"It seems to me absolutely right that when one drives down a street, one should be able to spot an electric charging point rather as one can spot a pillar box or Belisha beacon," said Conservative MP John Hayes.

Modestly, he added: "It would be appropriate – although I leave this for others to decide – if my name were associated with such a thing."

Thus did the UK government minister introduce the second reading of the Automated and Electric Vehicles act to the House of Commons.

"How much do we want the autonomous vehicle to emulate what a human being would do if they were at the wheel, and how far do we want it to improve on what a human being would do?"

As we reported on the bill's first reading in the House of Commons, the bill will, if passed into law in its current form, make insurance companies liable for driverless car crashes – unless the driver is uninsured, in which case they cough up for any devastation caused by a rogue auto auto.

Manufacturers will more or less be exempt from routine liability claims because of the bill's provisions allocating blame to either drivers or insurance companies.

Speaking at the second-reading debate in the Commons, Labour MP Richard Burden asked whether the government was planning to introduce a certification and licensing scheme for technicians working on driverless cars. The bill itself makes clear that anyone tweaking their car's software will be personally liable if it causes any damage.

"I am not unsympathetic to that argument," said Hayes. "I look forward to further debate about the matter."

Data protection was raised by Conservative MP Greg Knight, who asked: "Has [the minister] had any further thoughts on the data log of automated vehicles, how long such information should be kept and who should have access to it?"

While Knight accepted that insurance companies and the police should "have the right to access the data log", he added: "Will others be able to seek access to it, such as an employer trying to see what an employee has been up to during the day, or an ambitious divorce lawyer seeking to prove adultery has taken place and trying to find out where the occupant of the automated vehicle had been during an afternoon?"

Hayes parried. "It is important that we consider information in this debate and discuss it further," he murmured, getting back to his pre-prepared speech.

Labour shadow transport minister Karl Turner reassured the Commons that his party "broadly support the bill" but warned that they "have some concerns" over driverless car technology generally – in particular because the Transport Secretary will have absolute power to decide which automated vehicles may be used on British roads in the future. As Turner pointed out: "The dividing lines between automated and autonomous vehicles are not always completely clear."

The public consultation on the Automated and Electric Vehicles Bill opened today. The deadline for submissions is 5pm on November 16. More information can be found on the consultation webpage. ®

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