Can Self Driving Cars Really Be Hacked? We Need Smarter Thinking

The UK government published its Automated Electric Vehicles Bill back in 2018, seeking to define blanket liability for all accidents to the manufacturers own insurers, rather than individual drivers. What happened to that idea?

Well it was passed in 2021 and although we haven’t got truly self-driving cars, there is a framework of law on the books to define liability in the event the automated vehicle malfunctions. There is a get-out clause for insurers in that anyone who fails to update their software might face a denied claim, or personal liability for damages caused of course.

But what if there is a mass hacking event, organised by say a terror group? Who picks up the tab then?

These are big questions as we move along the road towards self driving cars, vans, trucks and buses later in the century. Advance planning now on things like the “handover” point when the driver is no longer driving, the definition of State vs individual terrorism, international agreements on source code data tracking, rogue employee limited liability and much more needs to be debated and settled, to an extent, before the inevitable serious multi-vehicle accident happens. Because sadly, history teaches us that no technology advances without fatalities.

The aim long term is safer roads of course, via technology. When driving itself is a skillset no longer entrusted to most humans, surely the annual death and injury toll will be drastically reduced, perhaps by as much as 90% globally?

That is a goal every insurer can support, but the question is how the journey towards that ambition is insured: liability being passed from driver to software may yet prove to be a bumpy road.

Some comment here from Pete Allchorne, Vice President of the Forum of Insurance Lawyers (FOIL) and Partner at DAC Beachcroft Claims Limited.

The importance of a ‘safety first’ approach to the development of automated vehicles cannot be overstated. These are effectively ‘computers on wheels’ and, by definition require an element of connectivity. We know from our every day lives that computers are prone to hacking, Automated vehicles (now known as ‘self-drive’) will pose precisely the same challenges, only with potentially disastrous consequences, unless sufficient mitigations and safeguards are put in place.

Whilst the Automated & Electric Vehicles Act 2018 put in place a viable insurance framework to enable self-drive vehicles to be tested and developed, the move from driver assistance to vehicle automation requires substantive legislation in areas such as data and cyber security, amongst others.

In the absence of the much anticipated Transport Bill, FOIL welcomes the House of Commons Transport Committee report on self-driving vehicles, and urges the government to take the necessary steps to legislate without further delay.

About alastair walker 12131 Articles
20 years experience as a journalist and magazine editor. I'm your contact for press releases, events, news and commercial opportunities at Insurance-Edge.Net

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.