Autonomous Vehicles – Some Thoughts Part Two

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In Part One of the Autonomous Vehicles: Some Further Thoughts, we saw that there are numerous issues which will be faced in the regulation of Autonomous Vehicles, including in Intellectual Property, EU Law and Cyber Security. I will discuss the most prevalent issue, insurance.

In perfect timing for this Article, the Automated and Electric Vehicles Bill was released just two weeks ago, a Bill which deals with, inter alia, the insurance of Level 4 and 5 Autonomous Vehicles. As I write, I am remotely listening to the Committee Stage hearings taking place on the Bill. I was also very recently given the privilege of discussing this Bill with the Government Centre for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles at the Department for Transport.

So without going into too much depth the Bill, if voted through, will provide a single insurance policy for Autonomous Vehicles. It will provide that where there is an accident in automated mode, the victim of that accident will claim off the driver’s insurance policy (which covers both driver and vehicle liability). The insurer of that policy will then have the opportunity to claim from the manufacturer of the vehicle (if the vehicle is at fault) or claim from the person responsible for that vehicle if they fail to install ‘critical safety updates’ or have made software updates that are prohibited under the policy.  This is therefore a truly unique insurance system within the new Bill and one which we will not know the effectiveness of for a while. As stated above the Bill is aimed at Level’s 4 and 5, which are not on the market yet.

There has been some discussion of this Bill already, with arguments both for and against the Bill. However, this author’s view is that the Bill is a start and nothing more. Yes, there are some faults to the Bill, particularly as it is worded vaguely in places, and there is some uncertainty as to liability. However, this is completely new ground for technology that does not currently work on public roads. Consequently, as with previous areas of legislation revolving innovation, this will be adapted in time and shaped to meet the news of society. I am particularly impressed with the way that industry and the government have so-far tackled this issue, taking it seriously and thinking ahead and ready to tackle future issues.

This article is a part of a series by Mathew Channon. You may find the previous article here.

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