Terrorists ‘could hijack remotely driven cars and use them in attacks’

In its report, the Commission raised the prospect of remote drivers in offshore call centers having control of vehicles on UK roads and the resulting legal complexities if they were involved in a serious accident.

Citing the lengthy battle to extradite Anne Sacoolas, the US driver charged with the death of 19-year-old Harry Dunn outside a US airbase in Northamptonshire, it said there would be “expense and delays” in trying to bring the “remote driver” to the UK for trial.

Licensing them could also be “problematic if remote drivers are used to driving on the right-hand side of the road or are unfamiliar with British road layouts,” said the Commission. It asked whether “driving from abroad should be prohibited”.

Concerns over ‘situational awareness’

The Commission also raised concerns about “situational awareness” where a remote driver could become “detached” from the job in hand because of the lack of “physical sensations” making it more like a video game than a real-life journey.

It set out options including “virtual reality” headsets for remote drivers as well as “specific, targeted training, in addition to holding a driving license for any vehicle they control. They will also need health checks and regular breaks “.

Remote driving will also require reliable and effective broadband connections because of the risk of accidents if they were lost during a journey. Some motoring experts told the Commission 5G rollout would be required, although others thought the 4G network would be adequate.

The Commission concluded: “There is no clear answer to the question of whether remote driving is ‘safe’. Although it gives rise to many serious safety concerns, it may be safe enough in some limited circumstances, provided sufficient care is taken over each aspect of the operation. “

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