The UK government recently opened its consultation on the role of insurance, auto makers and other partners in regulating self-driving cars and it wants to hear from industry experts. So for the next few weeks you will be able to have your say on the use of advanced driver assistance systems and ‘self-driving’ technologies in cars on British roads. The consultation closes on 9 September 2016 and the ABI’s Automated Driving Insurer Group has already been in talks with the DfT for several months to get to the current draft legislation.

A quick look at the guidelines shows some insights into how motor insurance will have be redesigned for a future in which compulsory third party insurance will still be in place, but a new and more complex risk from product liability will come into the mix.

Motorists who have handed control to their self-driving cars will have their cover extended to product liability at the point in time in which they cede control to the technology. The Highway Code and other regulations will also be altered so advanced driver assistance systems that change lanes on the motorway and park the vehicle by remote control can be used safely.

Once the changes as currently proposed are enacted in law, a driver’s insurer may still pay out in the normal way so road accident victims are promptly reimbursed – but the insurer will then be able to claim the money back from the car manufacturer if the vehicle is deemed to be at fault.

The additional compulsory product liability insurance for automated vehicles will also cover injuries to the ‘not at fault’ automated vehicle driver as well as passengers and third parties. There will be a new system for classifying automated and semi-automated vehicles so that manufacturers, insurers and consumers know which vehicles this particular insurance requirement applies to.

The transitional world of hybrid fleets, made up of both conventional and automated vehicles, is the more complex one to handle from the liability viewpoint.

Determining liability in the event of a collision where the driver has activated the automated vehicle technology (AVT) – to come out of the decision-making process to a degree – and they have disengaged from the driving task, could prove to be complex and time consuming.

Managing telematics and vehicle data, as we do at Wunelli and being able to serve timely reports to insurers is going to be key to this element of the claims process.

There is high potential for increased friction between the different parties over who and what caused a collision, resulting in delays in compensation to victims, a process that today is handled by the Motor Insurance Bureau (MIB) in the case of an uninsured driver.

Claims against product liability are likely to be more difficult, having to determine issues such as precisely when the technology failed, if it failed, the role of hardware or software, and whether the ‘driver’ was asked to take control. Equally the driver may have legitimately decided to take over control but failed to heed vehicle warnings.

So it will be the role of insurance data and vehicle data to distinguish cases of technology failure (in which case current legislation only requires insurance to cover third parties and not the driver) from cases of driver, or user, error.

While some manufacturers have offered to self-insure their automated vehicles while they operate in an automated mode, not all have. Without certainty of how claims will be handled, there are lawsuit concerns and the risk of customer confusion, which could reduce the sale and use of automated vehicles. Therefore there is the need to make changes to the insurance system in the UK before the first wave of vehicles comes on the market.

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