UK insurers want autonomous vehicle data to establish crash liability


The UK insurance industry is calling for future autonomous vehicles to collect a basic set of data, so that in the instance of a crash or accident, insurers can determine who was in control of the vehicle; the driver or the car.

One of the key challenges for the future of automated driving will be determining where liability rests in the event of an accident with a self-driving car. A crucial part of making sure that claims are settled fairly will be to understand who was in control of the vehicle at the time of the incident; the driver or the car’s systems.

UK insurers are leading efforts to have a standard set of data agreed at an international level that would be easily accessible in the event of an accident involving a highly automated vehicle. This would include an indication of whether the vehicle was operating autonomously or not, and what technology was in use. The UN body responsible for vehicle regulations is preparing to impose its own data requirements on motor manufacturers from 2019, which insurers in the UK are hoping to influence for the benefit of motorists.

The collected data would be used to: establish liability; inform emergency services’ investigations; ensure claims could be processed promptly; and help vehicle manufacturers improve their products. The Association of British Insurers (ABI) says that on occasions where faulty technology was shown to have caused an accident, insurers should be able to recover the costs from the manufacturer, helping keep premiums down. The information insurers want to see universally collected only concerns the autonomous systems and driver interaction; it is not proposed that any information measuring driver performance should be gathered.

The proposed data set would cover a period from 30 seconds before, to 15 seconds after, an incident, and is:

• A GPS record of the time and location of the incident;

• Confirmation of whether the vehicle was in autonomous or manual mode;

• If in autonomous mode, whether the vehicle was parking or driving;

• When the vehicle went into autonomous mode, and when the driver last interacted with the system;

• Any driver activity, such as braking or steering;

• Whether the driver’s seat was occupied, and whether the seatbelt was fastened.

“Insurance is an increasingly innovative sector, and we are backing the development of automated cars 100%. As part of insurers’ commitment to getting automated cars on the road, and dramatically improving road safety, there will need to be basic data easily available to make sure customers are looked after if something goes wrong,” said Huw Evans, the ABI’s director general. “This would offer public reassurance by protecting motorists from being incorrectly blamed if something fails with their car, helping police investigations, and supporting prompt pay outs.”

Peter Shaw, chief executive of the UK insurance industry’s automotive research center, Thatcham Research, added, “We would like to see car manufacturers and legislators, working together with the insurance industry, to develop a framework to establish the facts quickly, and the proposals for standardized data would achieve this.”

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Tom has edited Traffic Technology International (TTi) magazine and its Traffic Technology Today website since May 2014. During his time at the title, he has interviewed some of the top transportation chiefs at public agencies around the world as well as CEOs of leading multinationals and ground-breaking start-ups. Tom's earlier career saw him working on some the UK's leading consumer magazine titles. He has a law degree from the London School of Economics (LSE).