Legal comment: Putting motoring insurance in the right frame

 

Following the news that from 2022 new vehicles sold in Europe could be fitted with automatic speed limiters, Transport Network has legal analysis from Kurt Rowe, Associate and Motor Technology lead at national law firm Weightmans.

He argues that while the measures should be applauded, this is first and foremost an opportunity to urgently address a data-sharing framework for insurers.

Putting motoring in the right frame

A robust insurance framework for data-sharing would put the UK’s motor sector streets ahead.

The Vehicle Certification Agency’s (VCA) announcement that it will mirror EU safety standards for vehicles in the UK from 2022, is set to usher in a new technological solution to the issue of speeding on our roads. The regulations would introduce Intelligent Speed Assistance technology to all new vehicles sold.

”Local

The technology uses on-board speed sign-recognition cameras and GPS-linked speed limit data to advise drivers of the current speed limit, with the option to automatically limit the speed of the vehicle if desired.

The new range of vehicle safety features also extend to additional vehicle requirements such as Automated Emergency Braking, alcohol interlock devices and Event Data Recorders, which store data on the vehicle’s status in the moments leading up to a collision.

Comparisons made between this decision and the impact of the mandatory introduction of seat belts in the early 1980s could well be valid. Already deployed in a number of EU member states, the technology has been proven to curb major speeding issues and could help to significantly reduce the number of collisions and fatalities on our roads.

While these features have been a long-time coming and should be heralded, we need to understand how this is going to impact a key area of motoring – namely insurance. The introduction of these systems yet again reopens the debate around data-sharing between connected vehicles, the insurer, and the authorities, which urgently needs to be addressed.

Currently, there is no framework in place for how this data will be shared. In order for insurers to be able to develop and adapt their claims processes in the event of an accident involving connected vehicles, legislation mandating how that information should be shared is essential.

Despite the Law Commission holding a number of consultations in recent years, the issue has been kicked into the long grass. Connected vehicles fitted with the kind of technology the VCA’s announcement covers will almost inevitably store data that – while not necessarily evidence of negligence in the event of an accident - can be extremely important information for insurers in establishing liability.

Until a data-sharing framework is established, the impact of the vehicle safety legislation will be relatively limited. This could potentially see insurers exposed to additional unintended liabilities due to lacking access to vehicle data.

It’s vital for issues such as data protection to be included within the scope of such legislative reforms, to avoid a piecemeal approach that will inevitably reveal holes in the system later down the line.

While the automated vehicle consultation isn’t expected to release its outcome until March 2021, the preliminary consultation did refer to some potential solutions for data access and retention.

However, it neither highlights nor consults on those solutions, nor the need for practical guidance around how this might work. Without it, insurers will certainly encounter challenges when designing their claims and recovery processes. The provisional EU deal is a prime opportunity to address some of these shortcomings.

While we wait for measures to be verified and finalised by the European Parliament, there is still time for an insurance framework to be considered.

Ensuring road safety should of course be the Government’s priority, but insurers and indeed other key players in the industry will need to put pressure on the Government to incorporate this framework so that the sector - and indeed the public as a whole - can benefit from the rewards of a safer transport system.

Follow Weightmans on @Weightmans

 

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