Driverless cars have generated a lot of interest of late, with a number of vehicle providers carrying out test runs on public roads and insurance companies reviewing their motor insurance products with a view to accommodating the change to automated transport.
The benefits of driverless vehicles have also been well reported. For example, driverless vehicles will reportedly reduce pollution and, quite importantly, are expected to remove human error leading to fewer road traffic collisions.
While driverless cars may remove human error, they introduce risks of their own with machine error being one key issue. There are tricky questions about who pays compensation when driverless cars cause injury or damage. This is because traditional laws on vehicle-related accident sought compensation from drivers and their insurers on the basis of driver fault where a driver’s negligence had caused injury or damage.
The UK Government is seeking to address this issue by introducing new laws which could make it easier to seek compensation directly from insurers of driverless vehicles when insured vehicles cause injury or damage.
The Government introduced the Automated and Electric Vehicles Bill to the House of Parliament in October 2017, though it is yet to be passed as law.
When introducing the Bill, Transport Minister John Hayes said, “We want the UK to be the best place in the world to do business and a leading hub for modern transport technology, which is why we are introducing the Automated and Electric Vehicles Bill in Parliament and investing more than £1.2bn in the industry.”
Under the proposals, motor vehicle insurers will be liable to pay compensation when a driverless vehicle they insure causes an accident while “driving itself” which results in death, personal injury and/or property damage.
Insurers will not have to pay compensation if the driverless vehicle is uninsured at the time of the accident. Insurers can also avoid liability or limit the amount of compensation they are liable to pay if an injured person is partly at fault for the accident.
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