HARPS – time to reflect on safety issues for passenger only vehicles

New technology offers opportunities for driverless vehicles to be used as more efficient, flexible and frequent forms of transport.  Traffic and CO2 could be reduced and travel could become much safer and cheaper. 

HARPS is yet another acronym to remember and stands for “highly automated road passenger services”. HARPS means taxis, minicabs or buses that are driven by computers rather than humans and are run by  public bodies or private individuals.

The Law Commission have started their second consultation on HARPS and the easy-read version can be reviewed here.

In relation to road safety, key questions in the consultation include:

  • What responsibility should the vehicle operators have for behaviour of passengers and background checks for staff?
  • Should they have to know where the HARPS vehicles are at all times (remote supervision)?
  • Should they be responsible for ensuring drop off and pick up are in safe places?
  • How can disabled people ensure safe access?
  • Should private individuals offering a passenger only car service have insurance cover in place for all users?
  • What responsibility should operators have to report accidents in their driverless cars?

All of these issues could be covered under the terms of a new licence which will require those offering HARPS vehicles to satisfy key requirements or risk losing their licence.

Ashfords partner, Flora Wood comments :

At Ashfords LLP we are always interested in improvements to road safety and the concept of driverless cars poses new legal challenges to ensure our laws and safety regulations are up to date and relevant. A worst case scenario would be that the market is flooded with unregulated or under regulated driverless taxis, causing road chaos and failing to safeguard passengers.

The consultation closes on 16 January 2020.

If you would like further information or advice about a road accident please contact Flora Wood from our Personal Injury Team on

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