Self-Driving Cars Could Change Insurance Rules

John Lister's picture

The British government says insurers should have to pay out if a customer's self-driving car crashes, whether or not the human was in control. It's the latest in a series of legal questions raised by the technology.

The government has published the Vehicle Technology and Aviation Bill and will now try to make it law through the country's parliamentary system. If adopted, the rules would mean the government would legally classify cars as self-driving on a model-by-model basis.

With any car that fits into this category, the legally-required insurance policy would have to be set up so that it would cover claims for collisions caused when the car was in automatic mode as well as when the human was driving.

Missing Updates Could Invalidate Policy

In normal circumstances, the insurer would not be allowed to exclude liability for self-driving mode. The only exceptions would be if the customer had altered the car's software without authorization, or if the policy specifically required the customer to apply all software updates and had failed to do so.

Although it's likely to be many years before British drivers can buy self-driving cars, the government says it makes sense to get the relevant changes to laws into place before the technology is available to the public. (Source:

Meanwhile, Ford has argued that it may actually be safer to completely remove steering wheels and pedals from driverless cars. It says a halfway approach where the controls are there but only for use by humans in an emergency doesn't work out properly in practice.

Humans Doze When Car Takes Control

It's a reference to a type of driverless car known as "level three" in which the car itself takes care of the driving and monitoring hazards and the human only takes control where necessary. Ford says its testing of such vehicles found that with the car driving itself, the humans have so little to do that they stop paying attention and may even fall asleep.

That makes it almost impossible for them to regain alertness quick enough to respond if the car throws the driving back to them. In fact, similar testing at Volvo found that people who've taken advantage of automated driving to relax or use an electronic gadget can take as long as two minutes to mentally "switch back on" and be capable of safe driving again. (Source:

Instead, Ford says it's thinking of taking its test program straight to level four or five, which has no human interactions whatsoever, and thus doesn't need any controls.

What's Your Opinion?

Do you agree with the proposed insurance laws and would you like to see them take effect in your area? Do you agree with Ford's argument about people being too relaxed to quickly take back control? Will there ever be a day when completely automated cars are commonplace on public roads?

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ecash's picture

For many reasons..
And much of what a human will DO, while the car is driving, is TRUE..we will do all kinds of things WHILE the car is driving itself, and I wont Mention MOST of them..
BOREDOM while NOT driving..
NOT learning HOW to handle your vehicle..
NOT feeling the ROAD, and knowing its ICY/Slippery/and anything about the Road and HOW the car is working..
NOT knowing how well your car is Working..Odd thing about Many new cars, for all the tech they dont have a FLOW indicator for the Water..and we dont have gauges any more top TELL US that the Engine TEMP IS WRONG, and the computer dont TEST for LOW temp, only HIGH temps..

We are getting SO DUMB about how our cars work, expecting a $50 computer to DO EVERYTHING perfectly, that most people Couldnt/wouldnt KNOW if the battery was dead..or HOW to check it.. Iv had people that DIDNT know that they needed to replace FLUIDS and OIL, under a Hood.,..(REALLY) Poor car ran for 5 years with a FULL Family running around a Major metro without changing the oil, adding water/antifreeze/anything..(person didnt even know there was a LATCH to open the hood..)

I will LOVE these new vehicles as it will give me reason to tell the COP, I wasnt driving, and the Car dont have insurance(it wouldnt pay it it DID) THE CAR is responsible..NOT ME..The CAR can go get insurance, as IM NOT DRIVING..AND I would have a secondary computer to Monitor the Cars my Family could SUE the manufacture because IT FAILED TO SAVE ME..

WHO is responsible? THEY ARE..not me..They can pay the $600-1000 per year for insurance, THEY can Pay the taxes and license..Im not driving it, THEY ARE..

MONSTERTEK's picture

I am sure whatever the law will be, the insurance companies will find a way to spin it so they can increase their premiums.