There is a danger that more accidents could be caused by drivers of hi-tech cars thinking they can stop paying attention to the road, the Association of British Insurers (ABI) has warned.
Speaking at a seminar called “A future with Autonomous Driving Cars” James Dalton, ABI director of general insurance policy, said the growth in features like automatic braking and lane assistance systems may give drivers a false sense of security that they can relax while their car looks after them.
“But unless a vehicle is fully automated and able to respond appropriately in an emergency, drivers still have to be ready to take back control at a moment’s notice,” he said.
Updated regulations are expected to allow some limited hands-off driving on motorways for vehicles with advanced safety systems from as early as 2018.
Fully automated vehicles are only likely to be on the roads sometime after 2021 and will be able to complete whole sections of a journey under their own control and should be able to respond safely, without driver intervention, in an emergency.
Only when vehicles are fully automated should drivers consider themselves completely free to do other activities behind the wheel, however, the ABI’s Dalton said.
The ABI and Thatcham Research have established a working group which brings together 13 insurers to look at how insurance and liability should be addressed for driverless cars.
Some industry observers have predicted that the motor insurance market will severely disrupted by the arrival of driverless cars. Advances in car safety and automation could keep driving down claims frequency and severity, triggering a dramatic fall in premium rates.
Standard & Poor’s expects to see a shift in the type of insurance provided, from personal cover bought by motorists to product liability cover bought by car manufacturers or technology providers, for example.
“With no individual in control of the automated car, under the current legal framework, the courts would decide liability on a case-by-case basis in the event of an accident…
"Liability could fall to the manufacturer, the software developer, or even to the person who last serviced the car,” S&P said in a note on the subject.