The government has given more insight into how it thinks driverless car insurance policies could work, essentially holding the vehicle, and by extension the manufacturer, liable for accidents.
“In the event of a serious collision when in driverless mode, it would be the vehicle at fault instead of the human driver,” said roads minister Andrew Jones on Wednesday.
The comments come a week after the Queen’s Speech which laid out the government’s intention to create new laws governing driverless cars in the Modern Transport Bill.
Jones’s speech was delivered in Milton Keynes, a test bed for driverless cars in the UK, and set out the government's belief that such vehicles will be on UK roads within four years.
“The government believes that within four years it will be possible to buy cars that, under supervision, park on their own and pilot themselves on motorways. Eventually, there will be virtually nothing left for the motorist to do,” he said.
This will require major changes to car insurance as traditional data used to create policies and premiums will be irrelevant.
“Much of the data on which insurance is priced and sold will steadily become obsolete [and] vast quantities of new kinds of data will become available, assessing not individual driver risk but vehicle behaviour and other factors,” Jones said.
He explained that insurance policies will expand to include liability for manufacturers if it can be proved that the car was at fault, not the driver.
"Compulsory motor insurance will be retained, but it will be extended to cover product liability so that when a motorist has handed control to their vehicle, they can be reassured that their insurance will be there if anything goes wrong," he said.
"Where the vehicle is at fault the insurer will be able to seek reimbursement from the manufacturer."
The move to create new legislation covering driverless cars so early in the technology's move towards the mainstream underlines just how much of an impact the government believes it will have on the UK.
Car manufacturers are likely to welcome the changes as, despite the prospect of insurance payouts, they will help public acceptance of driverless cars to grow.
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