Questions raised over liability in driverless cars

The development of driverless car technology will see the role of motorists resemble aircraft pilots when it comes to insurance, according to the ABI.

Speaking at a road safety conference yesterday organised by The Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport  Safety, ABI policy adviser Scott Pendry said driverless car technology would revolutionise the insurance industry and raised important questions around liability.

“With human error accounting for about 90% of road accidents, the potential safety implications of autonomous technology are huge. This is why the insurance industry is keen to work with vehicle manufacturers, regulators and the legal community on the adoption of this potentially life-saving technology,” he said.

But Pendry said driverless car technology raised questions over liability in accidents and whether responsibility would lie with the driver or the vehicle manufacturer.

“The situation at present is clear: even with autonomous technology features on cars, liability rests with the driver,” he said.

“The key change – and the potential shift to product liability – comes when the driver is not expected to oversee or monitor the vehicle and when they have ceded full driving responsibility to the car itself.

“Our initial view is that if a system fails on a fully autonomous vehicle causing it to crash, liability would rest with the vehicle or system manufacturer. This potential shift in liability would only occur when a driver has actively given complete control to the vehicle and has no option to intervene.

“While there are a large number of issues and unanswered questions around driverless cars remain, the potential benefits – safer roads, and potentially lower motor insurance premiums – are huge.”