Manufacturers of self-driving cars may need to take out their own Car Insurance to cover any financial liability to victims of auto accidents. This is one of the proposals made in a new piece of legislation by the British government, which will come into effect in 2017. The regulation aims to address the issue of how self-driving cars should be insured when they are introduced to the mainstream in the future.
While self-driving technology has the potential to reduce the number of road accidents and improve traffic flow, there have already been a few events that prove things may still go wrong when being transported in an autonomous vehicle. In February this year, a Google Lexus-model caused an accident when it veered off the road and collided with a bus after detecting sandbags on the road it was travelling on. In a more recent incident, a human-controlled van skipped a red traffic light and smashed into a Google vehicle. Manufactures, engineers, and legal experts are now grappling with the question as to who should be blamed when an accident involving a driverless car happens.
With traditional Car Insurance, the personal policy of the driver at fault pays for third-party claims resulting from a vehicle accident. With a driverless car, there could be a single party responsible or several parties could be held accountable, depending on the conditions an accident took place. The most important factor, of course, is who is to blame but other influences could also be considered such as whether the car was used under ownership or just for test driving. As with their existing business models, insurance carriers could dispute any liability toward driverless cars. According to Wheels 24, the manufacturer might be liable if the accident was caused by a software glitch in the self-driving car. If it came as a result of vehicle failure and human error, the manufacturer, and the driver's insurance provider could both be responsible for the damages.
These are, however, just two insurance options that may be put into place for driverless vehicle owners. Another possible system could have drivers pay an additional amount on the purchase price of the driverless car or on the petrol/electricity used to run the vehicle. Similar to the Road Accident Fund, this fee would be contributed to a central government fund that provides cover for autonomous vehicles.
Since driverless projects worldwide are still carried out on a trial basis, it could take years before South African insurers create their own terms and conditions around self-driving cars. But, when they are introduced in the near future, drivers might be in for significantly lower premiums as roads could become safer and accidents less common.