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Insurance body in liability call for driverless vehicle manufacturers

Published 09/09/2016

Insurance firms are worried about claims relating to driverless vehicles
Insurance firms are worried about claims relating to driverless vehicles

Insurance firms should have a legal right to recover costs from manufacturers when a defect in a driverless car causes a crash, the Association of British Insurers (ABI) has said.

The trade association believes that both the driver of the car and injured third parties should be able to pursue a claim against the driver's insurer in such cases.

But insurers should then be able to recover the cost of the payouts from manufacturers, according to a joint paper published by the ABI and industry body Thatcham Research.

There is currently no automatic right for insurance companies to obtain compensation from car makers when their vehicles are found to be at fault for a crash which results in a claim.

Insurers are concerned that with the development of driverless technology, product liability insurance cannot be relied on as it is not compulsory and can be subject to limits - whereas motor insurance cover for personal injury is required to be unlimited.

Also, product liability does not cover damage to the product by the product, making it ineffective if an automated vehicle drives itself into an object and the owner wants to cover the cost of replacing the vehicle.

The ABI and Thatcham Research called for drivers to continue to require just a single insurance policy to cover both manual and automated driving, to avoid complications and ensure accident victims have enough cover.

They stressed the importance of agreeing good procedures for collecting and sharing data so those involved in claims get compensation without delay and warned that drivers should not be misled into thinking "their car can drive itself when it cannot".

The paper was issued in response to a Department for Transport consultation into driverless cars, which closed on Friday.

ABI director James Dalton said: "With these proposals, insurers are showing their commitment to the new technology, and to ensuring that anyone injured in a road accident continues to get quick and easy access to help and support, as they do at the moment.

"Motor manufacturers share our goal of reducing deaths and injuries on the roads.

"When an automated vehicle or piece of software causes an accident it is important insurers can recover costs from the companies involved so that vehicle owners are protected from any upward pressure on the cost of motor premiums."

Peter Shaw, chief executive of Thatcham Research, commented: " Building driver confidence is at the heart of this consultation paper, so keeping things simple and clear is paramount.

"Similarly, there is still much work to be done by legislators and the automotive industry to give drivers absolute clarity and confidence around what automated driving systems are capable of doing and under what circumstances they can be used."

Driver assistance systems are already in use in some cars, including control of speed and lane changing. But fully automated driving technology is not yet commercially available.

US manufacturer Ford announced last month that it intends to have completely driverless vehicles with no steering wheel or pedals on the road within five years.

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