UK intends to be a frontrunner in the driverless car race


Legislators and transportation regulators around the world are grappling with how to most effectively regulate autonomous vehicles (AV).

The issue that continues to raise the most questions and stall legislative developments is how to best handle liability and insurance. The UK is set to be the first country to address this issue head-on through the Vehicle Technology and Aviation Bill.

The predecessor to the Vehicle Technology and Aviation Bill was first proposed in May 2016 as the Modern Transportation Bill. After consultation, the revised Bill entered Parliament on 22 February 2017 and has quickly gone through a number of Parliamentary stages.

If approved, it expected to receive Royal Assent and could be made law within months. A key element of the bills is the incorporation of insurance requirements for driverless cars into its legislation.

As the first country to consider such provisions, this highlights the potential for the UK to be leader in the AV sector. The UK Government appears to be taking great leaps forward towards ensuring that the country remains a leader in the AV space by being the first to legislate on this matter, while recognising that it is sensible not to over-regulate at this important stage of research and development given the inadvertent barriers to delivery.

Window of Opportunity

In a speech last May, transport minister Andrew Jones stressed that the UK is faced with a 'rare window of opportunity' for innovation in the car insurance industry in the development of new insurance products and approaches.

Mr Jones also outlined that the current data upon which insurance is 'priced and sold will steadily become obsolete' as AV technology develops.

A driverless car in the 'real world' of Milton Keynes

Insurers will be able to further embrace connectivity to deliver ever more specific data about individual drivers and their real risk and real time situational awareness, including in different traffic scenarios and prevailing weather conditions.

In addition, insurance rates and coverage will need to adapt due to the shift in liability from individual driver to autonomous vehicle.

The question of liability with regards to collisions involving AV is a difficult issue. What if an AV is found to have a defect, or a human passenger took control of the vehicle shortly before a collision occurred (or, vice versa, did not take control when required to do so)?

There may be black and white cases where fault clearly lies with the human or the 'computer', but there is a substantial grey area where responsibility could be argued to be fluid, which will present very difficult civil (and potentially criminal) scenarios.

Single Insurer Model

In the response to its consultation, published in January 2017, the Government noted its intention to 'extend compulsory motor insurance creating a single insurer model to protect victims where the AV crashes in automated mode'.

The Single Insurer Model will work alongside the Road Traffic Act 1988 to ensure that a motorist has insurance: (1) when they are manually driving a vehicle; and (2) when AV technology is activated or in use.

The Model will provide adequate protection for motorists, as it will provide insurance coverage when they suffer damage while the vehicle is activated in autonomous mode. In addition, an innocent victim of a collision (whether this be other motorists or those outside of vehicles entirely, e.g. pedestrians or cyclists) will also be able to claim against the insurer.

Importantly for all motorists, in an age where instances of cybercrimes are increasing in all facets of society, insurers will not be able to exclude liability if an accident occurs as a result of an AV being hacked. Insurers will only be able to exclude liability in certain specific situations, such as when a motorist has failed to install software updates when required to do so.

While an insurer will be expected to pay out for collisions involving an insured AV under the Single Insurer Model, if a manufacturer is ultimately found to be liable – for instance, if it is established that an accident was the result of a software glitch – the insurer will be able to seek recovery from the manufacturer under product liability laws and the common law of negligence.

Complex scenarios will undoubtedly remain for such nascent technology. For example, the position on ultimate liability is complicated by developments as the vehicle and its technology will not necessarily be the work of a single manufacturer but a 'consortium' of automotive and tech players in a shared environment.

Indeed, a number of high-profile partnerships have been announced over the course of the year. It is anticipated that insurers and manufacturers will work together to establish an effective protocol for handling all such claims quickly and efficiently.

The Government response points out that if manufacturers obstruct this process, insurers will be able to simply cease offering AV insurance – effectively leaving manufacturers of the AV technology in the unwelcome position whereby their products will not be able to be legally used by motorists.

Driverless cars will certainly impact the insurance industry. Insurance carriers that readily understand and properly evaluate the risks of different AV technology, through the use of powerful 'big data' analytics and other solutions, will undoubtedly be the winners in a tougher, rapidly evolving and ever changing automotive insurance market.

Simon Garbett and Helen Cain, Squire Patton Boggs


Also see

Register now for full access

Register just once to get unrestricted, real-time coverage of the issues and challenges facing UK transport and highways engineers.

Full website content includes the latest news, exclusive commentary from leading industry figures and detailed topical analysis of the highways, transportation, environment and place-shaping sectors. Use the link below to register your details for full, free access.

Already a registered? Login

comments powered by Disqus
highways jobs

Project Engineer (Permanent)

Havant Borough Council
We’re looking for an experienced and enthusiastic engineer to join our well-regarded design and implementation team. Havant, Hampshire
Recuriter: Havant Borough Council

Project Engineer (Fixed Term)

Havant Borough Council
We’re looking for an experienced and enthusiastic engineer to join our well-regarded design and implementation team. Havant, Hampshire
Recuriter: Havant Borough Council

Contract Supervisor

London Borough of Richmond upon Thames and London Borough of Wandsworth
£31,013 - £36,486 depending on skills, knowledge and experience
The role of Contract Supervisor (Waste and Street Cleansing) will require you to support ambitious plans to provide services for residents Richmond upon Thames, London (Greater)
Recuriter: London Borough of Richmond upon Thames and London Borough of Wandsworth

Flood Risk Manager

Birmingham City Council
£43,662 - £54,574
The role requires the post holder to be the lead professional for the Authority’s Flood Risk Management and drainage function Birmingham, West Midlands
Recuriter: Birmingham City Council

Head of Highways & Transport

Lewisham London Borough Council
up to £72,705
As our lead expert on highways and transport, you will set the direction and lead on all transport related matters Lewisham, London (Greater)
Recuriter: Lewisham London Borough Council

Ugobus Driver (multiple positions)

Essex County Council
Up to £18938.0 per annum
Please note that we have permanent, fixed term and relief contract opportunities on a part time, job share and flexible working basis. The salary is u England, Essex, Chelmsford
Recuriter: Essex County Council

Assistant Director

Hounslow London Borough Council
Up to £82k
Working across a wide range of high profile direct services, the emphasis for this role is on partnership working. Hounslow (City/Town), London (Greater)
Recuriter: Hounslow London Borough Council

Head of Parks and Environmental Services

Harrogate Borough Council
£58,778 - £61,882
You will have experience at a senior level in the management and delivery of front line services relevant to the functions Harrogate, North Yorkshire
Recuriter: Harrogate Borough Council

Programme Technician/Engineer

Norfolk County Council
£29,636 - £31,371 per annum
This is a challenging position which involves working across wide ranging activities. Norwich, Norfolk
Recuriter: Norfolk County Council

Principal Transport Planner – 2 posts (Warrington Waterfront Western Link)

Warrington Borough Council
£40,760 - £43,662 plus essential car user allowance
We are looking to form a new Warrington Waterfront Western Link Team and we are looking to fill a number of key posts Warrington, Cheshire
Recuriter: Warrington Borough Council

Director of Integrated Transport

Liverpool City Region
Salary up to £124,848
The Liverpool City Region Combined Authority is embarking on a search for an exceptional individual with the passion to deliver on our vision Liverpool, Merseyside
Recuriter: Liverpool City Region

Highways Manager

Oxford Direct Services
Oxford Direct Services
Recuriter: Oxford Direct Services

Data Entry Administrator

Telford & Wrekin Council
£18,795 - £19,171
Telford & Wrekin’s Public Protection Service is looking for an enthusiastic and self-motivated Data Entry Administrator Telford, Shropshire
Recuriter: Telford & Wrekin Council

Transport Planner

Camden London Borough Council
£33,122 to £38,423
You’ll have previous experience of working in a transport/planning/accessible transport environment Camden, London (Greater)
Recuriter: Camden London Borough Council

Parking Business Administrator Level 3 Apprenticeship

Brent Council
£15,000 p.a. inc.
This role will support the Brent Parking Team work to provide administrative support for both the Notice Processing Team Brentford (City/Town), London (Greater)
Recuriter: Brent Council

Principal Engineer (Development)

Liverpool City Council
£37,849 - £42,683
Liverpool City Council wish to recruit a Principal Engineer (Development) to provide managerial and technical support. Liverpool, Merseyside
Recuriter: Liverpool City Council

Traffic Manager

Lincolnshire County Council
£55,503 - £60,578
We are looking to recruit a Traffic Manager to join our Highways team Lincoln, Lincolnshire
Recuriter: Lincolnshire County Council

Team Leader x2 - Passenger Transport

Redbridge London Borough Council
£27,228 - £28,215 per annum
You will be responsible for overseeing the duties of Passenger Transport drivers as well as providing support to the service and managers. Redbridge, London (Greater)
Recuriter: Redbridge London Borough Council

UTMC Engineer

Warrington Borough Council
£31,371 - £34,788
You will support the UTMC Principal Engineer and work as part of a team responsible for all aspects of Urban Traffic Management and Control Warrington, Cheshire
Recuriter: Warrington Borough Council

Programme Assurance Manager Public Realm

Westminster City Council
£46,293 - £49,203 per annum
A graduate, or have equivalent experience, and you can show evidence of continued professional, managerial and personal development... City of Westminster, London (Greater)
Recuriter: Westminster City Council