Insurers Offer 10-Point Plan for Driverless Cars

Driverless vehicle tech is on its way, there’s no doubt about that. But the thorny question of who is to blame when an accident occurs is something the UK insurance idustry – and the government – is still getting to grips with. Later today at the ABI offices in London the `Changing Gear – Adapting to Autonomous Vehicles’ Conference will take place and insurers will put forward ten key points to help define a truly driverless vehicle.

The 10 key features for autonomous cars and commercial vehicles should be;

  • Naming – clear description of automated capability
  • Complies with UK traffic laws
  • Location specific – only works on geo-fencing, or smart roads
  • Clear handover to `auto’ process, with a confirmation by the driver
  • Safe to drive – vehicle can manage all situations within reason
  • Unanticipated handover – adequate notice must be given if the vehicle needs to take control
  • Safe stop – vehicle can stop in an emergency safely
  • Emergency intervention -vehicle can avoid an accident by responding to an emergency
  • Back up systems to prevent total failure
  • Accident data is recorded

Ben Howarth, Senior Policy Advisor at the ABI noted;

`Truly automated vehicles have the potential to drastically reduce road accidents, cut delays and make it easier for people who cannot drive. There will inevitably be a transition period from today’s cars to vehicles of the future. This means cars will increasing levels of autonomy and there is the potential for confusion during this interim stage.

Insurers want to see manufacturers being absolutely clear about how they describe what their vehicles actually do. We think this checklist of ten features should be adopted across the industry.’

driverless car crash blame

Software Updates and a New Driverless Database

Insurers are also calling for car makers to define the automated functions of each car, and identify its features via a unique ID number. That way, as driverless tech advances, older cars can have software updates installed, and insurers and owners have an accessible database. This is crucial in the vehicle rental and lease market, where several drivers may access a particular car, so defining liability in a partly automated car could prove difficult.

Huw Evans, Director General of the Association of British Insurers, commented:  

“The insurance industry shares the Government’s ambitions that the UK be a world leader in autonomous vehicles, and insurers are already sponsoring and insuring some of the many trials taking place around the country. Fully automated cars have the potential to drastically improve road safety, reduce transport delays and increase the mobility of thousands of people who currently find it hard to get around. Insurers have helped shape the straightforward proposals for insuring autonomous vehicles now making their way through Parliament and will continue to support efforts to bring these innovative vehicles safely onto the UK’s roads.”

The Automated and Electric Vehicles Bill is making its way through Parliament, and is currently at the Committee stage. One of the most challenging parts of the new legislation is the tricky matter of individual vehicle data; who owns it, how can manufacturers prevent hacking and which government departments have immediate, or real-time, access to car data.

For example, many drivers would welcome a a total exemption from personal liability, once an automated system is engaged; speeding fines, parking offences, or even road accidents would not affect the owner’s insurance.

But would drivers accept in-car surveillence, or retina-scan ignition systems, so that insurers could be 100 percent certain that nobody in the car had disabled, or over-ridden automated systems, or the person named on a rental agreement, was not in fact inside the car, at the time of an accident?

More questions than answers on the automated road ahead.

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