Urgent law changes are needed if New Zealand is to fully realise the benefits of driverless vehicles, a Law Foundation report has found.

Author Michael Cameron said law and policy around driverless vehicles needed to be completely overhauled to even make them legal here.

"Many hope that driverless vehicles will eliminate traffic accidents, end congestion, spark economic growth and provide cheap and convenient mobility for all," Cameron said.

"But countries that want to fully realise these benefits, and avoid the pitfalls, will need to ensure their legal houses are in order.


"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."

His Law Foundation report Realising the Potential of Driverless Vehicles for New Zealand involved research in New Zealand, the United States, Europe, Singapore and Australia,

Despite concerns over the first pedestrian death involving a driverless vehicle in March, the safety of all road users would ultimately be improved by full adoption of the new technology, he said,

Driverless vehicle manufacturers needed to prepare safety assessments for New Zealand, as they did in the United States, so authorities here could utilise existing consumer protection and land transport rules to protect the public.

Law changes were also needed to clarify liability for offences involving driverless vehicles such as speeding or illegal parking.