Drivers of fully automated vehicles should not be held liable for accidents involving their cars while the technology is in charge, the insurance industry is warning. The Association of British Insurers (ABI) has submitted its views to the Law Commission which is helping to work out how the UK will incorporate the rules currently being decided internationally on standards for autonomous vehicles.

Once vehicles can manage all road conditions and scenarios, giving those travelling permission to stop thinking about the driving task and do other things, the ABI says it would be unfair to expect the driver to intervene if the on-board systems got something wrong or were unable to prevent an accident.

This means manufacturers must not be allowed to have their vehicles recognised as autonomous when a driver might still be expected to act in an emergency. Any process which involves the vehicle handing back to someone on board must be clearly signposted and give the driver enough time to regain control safely.  Until a vehicle can handle emergency scenarios without driver intervention they can only be considered to offer advanced driver assistance. In these vehicles, drivers do remain fully responsible for the car and must be ready to take back control at any moment.

The ABI’s response to the Law Commission’s preliminary consultation paper on automated vehicles, submitted jointly with Thatcham Research, also emphasises the insurance industry’s high level of support for autonomous motoring given the potential benefits to road safety.


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