The Association of British Insurers (ABI) has called for drivers of fully automated vehicles not to be held liable for accidents involving their cars while the technology is in charge.
In a submission to the Law Commission, which is exploring how the UK will incorporate international rules currently being decided on autonomous vehicle standards, the ABI said that once vehicles can manage all road conditions and scenarios, it would be unfair to expect the driver to intervene if on-board systems made a mistake or were unable to prevent an accident.
“We want motorists to be reassured they won’t be held liable for an error made by a vehicle or a piece of on-board technology”
The insurance body also said that the new standards must not leave loopholes for manufacturers to have their vehicles recognised as autonomous when a driver might still need to act in an emergency. Such vehicles should only be considered to offer advanced driver assistance, said the ABI, with drivers remaining fully responsible and ready to take back control at any moment.
“There will come a point when the drivers of today are effectively passengers in a vehicle driving itself, and at that stage we want motorists to be reassured they won’t be held liable for an error made by a vehicle or a piece of on-board technology,” said Laurenz Gerger, Policy Adviser for Motor Insurance at the ABI.
“Standards being set internationally, and the way they are adopted in the UK, need to include strict requirements to ensure vehicles aren’t rushed onto the roads under the badge of autonomy when in fact they may still need human intervention at short notice.
“Fully autonomous vehicles have the potential to radically improve road safety and insurers are heavily involved in the trials taking place around the country. A safe transition to automated driving requires clear definitions to help consumers understand their own and their vehicles’ responsibilities, and data must be available in the event of an accident to help insurers and the authorities understand what went wrong.”
“The life-saving potential of fully automated vehicles is clear, but it is important their introduction onto the UK’s roads is handled carefully”
In its response to the Law Commission’s consultation, submitted jointly with Thatcham Research, the ABI also emphasised the insurance sector’s support for autonomous motoring, given the potential road safety benefits it offers.
Thatcham’s Director of Insurance Research, Matthew Avery, said: “The life-saving potential of fully automated vehicles is clear, but it is important their introduction onto the UK’s roads is handled carefully to guard against serious accidents which could potentially undermine public trust in this new technology. This also means reassuring the public that when the time comes, they will not find themselves being held liable for the actions of a truly autonomous vehicle.
“Until this time, there will be a mix of vehicles on our roads with different capabilities: some being driven manually, others automatically. So it is vital that we make sure they can share the same road space, and remain safe.”