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Stepping up a gear – legislation brings automated cars closer to our roads

Ben HowarthAutomated driving is getting increasingly close to becoming a reality, with trials of ‘hands free’ driving already happening on UK roads. Today is the first chance MPs have to debate the legislation that will set how the first wave of automated vehicles are insured.

Insurers want to play a central role in helping manage the transition to safer and more convenient driving. The Vehicle Technology and Aviation Bill is intended for this transition phase, when a small number of new automated cars will be interacting with the existing fleet of manual vehicles. The legislation, which adopts our proposals, guarantees everyone on the road the protection insurance offers on the rare occasions something goes wrong.

The proposed system is designed to be easy to understand for anyone buying an automated car. They will need just one insurance policy and can use the automated mode whenever road regulations permit, without having to alter their level of cover. If a vehicle does fail to cope with the road situation, for whatever reason, drivers will not be unfairly held responsible for an accident they could not prevent and will also be able to claim appropriate compensation for their own injuries. Even more importantly, the system is simple for claimants. If another driver, cyclist or pedestrian needs to make a claim, they can go direct to the insurer and won’t need to worry if there is a dispute over whether the vehicle technology was responsible for an accident.

A crucial commitment made in the Bill is that the Government will be responsible for defining what cars can be used in automated mode, and therefore require this new form of insurance. Although the details need to be worked through, this is a very welcome commitment and offers reassurance that consumers will not be misled into thinking a car is ‘driverless’ when, in reality, it relies on the driver to supervise the system and intervene if needed.

However, this is only the first step. For the system proposed by the Vehicle Technology and Aviation Bill to work, there must be an adequate data sharing system to ensure all parties can immediately establish whether an automated mode was enabled at the time of a collision and if it was being used correctly. The proportionate approach officials have taken to this issue so far provides encouraging signs that Government will continue to work with the insurance industry to ensure everything needed to settle claims fairly is in place before the first automated cars go on sale.

The first chance to hear what the next stage of the Government’s “rolling programme” of regulatory reform will be comes on Wednesday 24th March, when Transport Secretary Chris Grayling will deliver the keynote speech at the ABI’s conference “Changing gear – adapting to autonomous vehicles”. 

Find out more and book your place here. 

Last updated 06/03/2017