The prospect of driverless cars ‘actually happening’ is ever closer, raising the question: insurance for driverless cars – in the event of an accident, who is liable?
With three autonomous vehicles, due be tested on public roads between Stockport Railway Station and Manchester Airport in January, the key question is who would be liable if an accident was to actually happen?
To understand this properly, we must firstly understand what insurance is legally required by law:
“You must have motor insurance to drive your vehicle on UK roads. Third party insurance is the legal minimum. This means you’re covered if you have an accident causing damage or injury to any other person, vehicle, animal or property. It doesn’t cover any other costs like repair to your own vehicle.”
Furthermore we must also understand the two types of driverless vehicles being developed as both offer differing scenarios, albeit with the same outcome:
Fully Automated – Typically this type of automation would be used on passenger transport vehicles. For example, ferrying people between a car park and airport driving on purpose built roads. Sensors would not only be on the vehicle but also within the road and kerb stones throughout the route thus removing the need for a driver. With this scenario the liability will probably fall with the manufacture of the vehicle.
Driverless Vehicles – Typically these are cars driven on public roads where a driver is required to sit and observe the automation and, should they be required, take control to avoid a collision. With this scenario the liability will always fall with the driver in charge of the vehicle not the manufacturer of the car or driverless system.
Guidelines from the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL) seem to suggest that future collisions will be policed in the same way as a normal accident as the existing rules can be adopted for driverless cars.
Regarding driverless technology, section 145 of the Road Traffic Act 1988 states that all vehicles must be insured before driving on British roads. While the consultation claims that some amendments to the Act would be necessary, there is currently “no need to add a costly ‘bolt-on’ to compulsory insurance in the form of a product liability policy”.
In relation to liability, APIL claim that questions of such legal complexities should not be of a concern to consumers, as those injured in a collision caused by a driverless car should bring a claim under their motor insurance policy and the insurer should pay out on a strict basis of liability.
“It would then be up to the insurer to recoup their payments by seeking costs from a negligent manufacturer if it was appropriate.”
So, the probable outcome for the consumer will be only the need to disclose the driverless technology on your own vehicle. The insurer you choose will then charge the appropriate premium or decline to insure you.
If you are unfortunate to be hit by a driverless vehicle then you should treat it like any other incident and report it to your insurance broker or company and they will deal with the claim on your behalf. In this instance, liability will probably fall on the driver that failed to take control.
Article supplied by Wrightsure, Stockport