Insurers call for standardised driverless crash data

data centre server room with bright lights

The Association of British Insurers (ABI) has called for driverless cars to be able to share data in the event of a crash, to prevent drivers being unfairly blamed if self-driving technology goes wrong.

The insurance body is leading efforts to have a standard set of data agreed at an international level that would be easily available in the event of a crash involving a self-driving car.

“Insurance is an increasingly innovative sector, constantly responding to evolving technology,” said ABI Director General Huw Evans at the organisation’s annual conference in London.

“Insurance enables technological advances in other sectors, and we are backing the development of automated cars one hundred per cent,” continued Evans. 



“As part of insurers’ commitment to getting automated cars on the road and dramatically improving road safety, there will need to be basic data easily available to make sure customers are looked after if something goes wrong. 

“This would offer public reassurance by protecting motorists from being incorrectly blamed if something fails with their car, helping police investigations and supporting prompt insurance pay outs.” 

The proposed data would indicate whether the vehicle was operating autonomously at the time of the crash, and show what technology was being used.

The ABI said that this information would be used to:

  • Establish liability for anything that had gone wrong
  • Inform investigations being carried out by the emergency services
  • Ensure the prompt processing of insurance claims
  • Help manufacturers to improve their vehicles.

To help keep insurance premiums down, this information should allow insurers to recover costs from the manufacturer on occasions where faulty technology was shown to have caused a crash, said the ABI.

As part of insurers’ commitment to getting automated cars on the road and dramatically improving road safety, there will need to be basic data easily available to make sure customers are looked after if something goes wrong.
— Huw Evans, Director General of the Association of British Insurers

The insurance body stressed that it is not proposing that information on driver performance is gathered, but only data concerning a vehicle's autonomous systems and driver interaction.

The ABI believes that such data should cover the period from 30 seconds before a crash to 15 seconds after the incident, and would include: 

  • A GPS record of the time and location of the incident
  • Confirmation of whether the vehicle was being operated autonomously or manually
  • Information about whether the vehicle was parking or driving, if it was in autonomous mode
  • The time when the vehicle went into autonomous mode and the point when the driver last interacted with the system
  • Any driver activity, such as braking or steering
  • Information about whether the driver’s seat was occupied and the seatbelt fastened.

In putting forward its proposals for driverless car crash data, the ABI hopes to influence the work of the UN body responsible for vehicle regulations, which is preparing to impose its own data requirements on motor manufacturers from 2019.

A graphic from the ABI and Thatcham Research highlighting the importance of data in understanding insurance liability in the event of a driverless car crash

A graphic from the ABI and Thatcham Research highlighting the importance of data in understanding insurance liability in the event of a driverless car crash

“One of the key battlegrounds of the future will be determining where liability rests in the event of an accident with an automated car,” said Peter Shaw, Chief Executive of Thatcham Research. 

“Future legislation needs to protect the consumer so that in the event of an accident, responsibility for the accident and who pays can be quickly determined. Was it driver error or a failure of the automated driving system? 

“This can only happen if their insurer has access to key data about the crash. We are calling on car manufacturers and legislators to work with the insurance industry to develop a framework to make this happen.”