BLM appeal for progress towards driverless cars safety

23 Mar 2018

BLM, insurance risk and commercial law specialists, welcome progress to the advancement of driverless cars through the current Autonomous and Electric Vehicles Bill but demand more be done to ensure safety with the new driving format, in light of the tragic incident in Arizona.

Driverless cars are no longer a pipe dream and are fast becoming a reality as motorists are already benefitting from Advanced Driver Assistance Systems including active cruise control, lane departure warning systems, automated parking, auto steer and Autonomous Emergency Braking.

BLM welcome the UK Government’s proposed new legislation to support the development and take-up of autonomous and electric vehicles. However, state that more must be done to tackle issues surrounding safety of driverless cars’ drivers and pedestrians.

'The Autonomous and Electric Vehicles Bill’ is set to enter the Report stage in the House of Lords and the UK Chancellor, Phillip Hammond, has reaffirmed a budget pledge to ensure “genuine driverless vehicles” on the roads by 2021.

Peter Campbell, Partner BLM Belfast, commented, “Development of automated vehicles has long been hampered with unanswered questions surrounding liability. The Autonomous and Electric Vehicles Bill has the potential to eradicate such uncertainties and make automated vehicles a reality. Although we welcome this progress, we believe more must be done by government to ensure the take up of these vehicles is legally fortified with the highest degree of safety mechanisms.

“This bill will bring clarity on insurance issues. For example, if a vehicle caused an accident in self-drive mode, responsibility would lie with the insurer. Deductions would be made for driver negligence and cover exclusions would be permitted if the motorist had failed to apply software updates or interfered with the vehicle’s systems.

“However, the government must take steps to legislate for procedures and restrictions to maximise the safety of these autonomous vehicles. With over 1,700 fatalities and 180,000 other injuries resulting from motor accidents in the UK annually, 90 per cent of which are due to human error, driverless cars have the potential to remove the human error element of risk, positively impacting road safety if steps are taken to minimise the risk associated with autonomous driving practices.

This reduction in risk could eliminate the need for third party damage insurance and premiums could be reduced by as much as 75 per cent as a result.

Peter continued, “There are multiple benefits of driverless cars, not least the reduction in risk due to the lessened likelihood of driver error and the associated reduction in premiums. However, it is crucial that regulations regarding the safety of these vehicles are implemented as a matter of urgency.”

Major UK insurers are already working on pilots of autonomous vehicles across the country, innovating their products, clarity from government will ensure vital questions on safety and liability are answered.

Peter concluded, “With policy questions likely to be addressed imminently by the Autonomous and Electric Vehicles Bill, BLM demand further clarity on safety precautions in order to ensure further progress in the safe development of driverless cars and associated software, hardware and infrastructure.”

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Disclaimer: This document does not present a complete or comprehensive statement of the law, nor does it constitute legal advice. It is intended only to highlight issues that may be of interest to customers of BLM. Specialist legal advice should always be sought in any particular case.

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