Auto Compensation: UK wants victims of self-driving car accidents to be quickly compensated

(Image Credit: iStockPhoto/chombosan)

The UK is planning ahead of how insurance will be handled in the self-driving era with a framework that ensures accident victims are quickly compensated.

Among the biggest questions surrounding the roll-out of self-driving cars is that of insurance and how it will function when there’s no-one in control of the vehicle. This has gained extra attention over the past year as more self-driving tests were conducted, and more accidents were reported. 

Chris Grayling, the Transport Secretary, said: Automated vehicles have the potential to transform our roads in the future and make them even safer and easier to use, as well as promising new mobility for those who cannot drive.” 

“But we must ensure the public is protected in the event of an incident and this week we are introducing the framework to allow insurance for these new technologies.” 

Google published accident reports of its self-driving vehicles throughout last year until November when it reported the first month without an incident. You can find that final report here (PDF) 

Self-driving cars will improve road safety as they reduce human error from things such as tiredness, distractions, medical problems, and people who drive intoxicated. Machines aren’t foolproof, however, and despite safeguards, accidents will happen. This will occur more in the early days as machines learn to deal with various scenarios, but the unpredictability of the roads and other users are sure to cause problems years down the line. 

David Williams, head of underwriting, at AXA UK, another insurer said: The vast majority of accidents are caused by human error and we see automated vehicles having a massive impact, reducing the number and severity of accidents.  

The government’s plan would have driverless car owners signing up for dedicated two-in-one’ insurance policies. One policy would cover the vehicle’s driver when it’s being driven conventionally, while the other would cover the vehicle when it’s driving itself. 

When a car is being driven by a person, that individual will be responsible if the accident was deemed their fault and will have to pay the excess on their policy where appropriate and face higher renewal premiums, as today. A vehicle in driverless mode, however, will mean the insurer paying out compensation and recovering it from the manufacturer. 

Edmund King, president of insurance firm AA, said: There has been much debate about the whether the driver, manufacturer or indeed highway authority would be liable in a driverless collision. This announcement puts the onus on the driver to ensure that they are fully covered." 

By introducing such two-in-one’ policies, the government hopes to avoid the confusion of who the claim should be filed against in the event of an incident which involves a driverless vehicle, and offer victims quick and easy access to compensation. 

What are your thoughts on the UK’s plan for driverless car insurance? Let us know in the comments.

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