Insurers seek new legal rights on driverless cars

The UK insurance industry has proposed simple cover for driverless cars, suggesting that insurers should handle the complications of insuring the first automated cars behind the scenes.

Consumers would notice hardly any difference to the current system of motor insurance, said the Association of British Insurers (ABI) and industry body Thatcham Research in their response to the Department for Transport’s consultation on how to support developing automated vehicle technologies.

A joint paper from the two organisations said:

  • Drivers should continue to buy a single motor insurance policy to cover both manual and automated driving.
  • Insurers should have a new legal right to recover costs from motor manufacturers, software companies or other parties in cases where the vehicle or technology was found to have been at fault.
  • Strict rules on what people can and cannot do behind the wheel need to be maintained and drivers will need absolute certainty about when they can safely allow the car to drive autonomously.

The ABI argues that requiring drivers to arrange a separate product liability policy for the times they are using automated driving modes would be too complicated and risk leaving road accident victims without enough cover.

James Dalton, director of General Insurance Policy at the ABI, said:

“Insurers wholeheartedly support the development of automated vehicles, which have the potential to revolutionise road safety. With these proposals insurers are showing their commitment to the new technology, and to ensuring that anyone injured in a road accident continues to get quick and easy access to help and support, as they do at the moment.

“Motor manufacturers share our goal of reducing deaths and injuries on the roads. When an automated vehicle or piece of software causes an accident it is important insurers can recover costs from the companies involved so that vehicle owners are protected from any upward pressure on the cost of motor premiums.”

Peter Shaw, chief executive of Thatcham Research, added:

“We would advocate geo fencing and restricting automated driving to specific roads, introducing a testing regime to assess automated driving systems to ensure they can handle road scenarios safely and, in the unfortunate case of there being an accident, ensuring it is clear to everyone whether the car was operating in automated mode or not.”

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