ABI: autonomous tech depends on clarity

Ahead of the second reading in parliament of the Vehicle Technology and Aviation Bill, the Association of British Insurers (ABI) has said that establishing clear definitions of which vehicles can be safely used in automated mode is going to be a crucial part of bringing this technology successfully onto the UK’s roads.

The government has confirmed it will take responsibility for specifying which vehicles can be used autonomously and when. The ABI says this will help consumers understand the capabilities of their vehicles and make it simpler for insurers to provide appropriate cover.

Insurers add that vehicle manufacturers must also be responsible in how they describe their cars, insisting the term ‘driverless’ should never be used it the driver is still required to be alert and available to intervene in the event of a problem.

Ben Howarth, senior policy adviser on motor and liability at the ABI, said, ‘Automated vehicles have the potential to dramatically improve road safety and revolutionise our transport systems. The insurance industry has been working hard alongside government to help pave the way for them to be used on the UK’s roads, including supporting a straightforward insurance model.

‘There will need to be a clear system to establish which vehicles can safely be used in autonomous mode, and we look forward to hearing more from the Government about how these standards will be agreed. Helping drivers understand what their vehicles are capable of will be vital to the safe and successful roll out of these new technologies.’

The Vehicle Technology and Aviation Bill adopts the insurance industry’s proposals for how the insurance and claims system for autonomous vehicles should work.

It will extend the application of existing motor insurance to cover both manual and automated driving, as recommended by the ABI, and give insurers a statutory right to recover costs where technology failures cause an accident. This ensures drivers will not be unfairly held responsible for accidents that they could do nothing to prevent. However, motor insurers will always have primary responsibility for settling claims. But in order for this claims process to work effectively, all parties will need to have access to some basic data to verify whether or not the vehicle was in automated mode at the time of an incident.