New Zealand Law Society

Navigation menu

Law change called for to make way for driverless vehicles

19 April 2018

A new study has concluded that a law change is needed to ensure driverless vehicles can be used legally on New Zealand roads.

That's the finding of a major Law Foundation study.  

The study's author Michael Cameron, says a complete overhaul of law and policy around driverless vehicles is required, and that New Zealand can afford to take time to get the comprehensive change right, but some targeted reform is needed more urgently.  

“Certain types of driverless vehicles, such as the taxi fleets being deployed by General Motors next year, may not legally be allowed on New Zealand roads, regardless of how safe they are.  

“Law change to reduce this uncertainty is desirable soon if New Zealand wants to ensure the life-saving benefits of driverless technology are not needlessly delayed. Such change would help New Zealand become a leader in driverless technology, with all the economic benefits that would entail. As we have shown with rockets in the North Island and autonomous air taxis in the South, our country can contribute to the development of world beating technology - but only if we have receptive laws,” he says.

Mr Cameron's report, Realising the Potential of Driverless Vehicles for New Zealand, identifies key law reforms needed for the smooth introduction of driverless vehicles, as well as counterproductive law changes that should not be made.

He says that despite recent publicity over the first pedestrian death involving a driverless vehicle, the safety of all road users will ultimately be improved by full adoption of the new technology.  

“Many hope that driverless vehicles will eliminate traffic accidents, end congestion, spark economic growth and provide cheap and convenient mobility for all. But countries that want to fully realise these benefits, and avoid the pitfalls, will need to ensure their legal houses are in order,” he says.

He says driverless vehicle manufacturers should prepare safety assessments for New Zealand, as they do in the United States, so our authorities can better utilise existing consumer protection and land transport rules to protect the public.  

"Law changes are also needed to clarify liability for offences involving driverless vehicles such as speeding or illegal parking," he says.

Other issues covered in the report include regulation of testing, cyber-security, mandated vehicle connectivity, radio spectrum use, urban planning, special lanes and reserved roads, privacy, parking and ethics.  

Michael Cameron's study involved research in New Zealand, the United States, Europe, Singapore and Australia.

Last updated on the 19th April 2018