Rise of the Robo-Diagnosis

In a world where the role of the doctor as a sole diagnostician is changing as rapidly as the progression in medical technology itself it is a natural par for the course that our reliance on big data goes hand in hand. Greg McEwen discusses what the consequences might be for our trust in human decision and the accuracy of their diagnoses, as AI gradually takes over. Continue reading

Automated driving legislation heads to Lords – a third Bill at its third reading

On 29 January the Automated and Electric Vehicles Bill completed its scrutiny in the Commons, at report and third reading stages. The AEVB is the third name for legislation in this area; the first was the Modern Transport Bill in the 2016 Queen’s Speech, the title of which then morphed into the Vehicle Technology and Aviation Bill. That Bill made some progress through Parliament during spring 2017 but then lapsed due to the general election in June. Its provisions on the insurance arrangements for automated driving are largely re-adopted and clarified in the current AEVB which now passes to the House of Lords.

In essence, part 1 of the AEVB will, when implemented, require compulsory motor insurance to be extended such that the motor insurer will be legally liable for damage caused by an automated vehicle driving itself. The quid pro quo for this extended liability is that the motor insurer will be given legal rights of recovery against any other person also liable. The Government has structured the legal regime this way in order to achieve the following:

  • to make sure that third parties injured by an automated vehicle driving itself can claim against a motor insurer in the usual way (rather than, say, have to make a product liability claim)
  • to provide the disengaged driver of the automated vehicle with these same rights, since he or she has, in effect, the status of a passenger when the car is driving itself, and
  • to permit motor insurers subsequently to recover against vehicle manufacturers (and software houses and the like) where they have paid claims in the first instance because the vehicle was driving itself.

The Secretary of State for Transport put this is more conversational language, observing during the debate that “...when you drive your car, Mr Deputy Speaker, it is you who is insured, not the vehicle. As a result of the Bill, in future the vehicle will equally be insured.” It might have been more helpful had he added “when driving itself” at the end of his remark, since the AEVB definitely does not bring about anything like a complete change to insurance of the vehicle as opposed to the current law which requires insurance of a person’s use of a vehicle.

An absolutely critical pre-cursor to the operation of the new insurance and liability regime is that insurers obtain ready access to vehicle data in order to establish in which mode the vehicle was operating at the time of an accident. This is not addressed in the Bill, but the House was reminded of it yesterday by Craig Tracey MP, who asked: “…given that the users of automated vehicles have to be able to demonstrate that their vehicle was in fully automated mode in order to exercise their rights under the Bill, what commitments can he give that data confirming the status of the vehicle at the time of the crash will be made available to the insurer?”

Craig MacKinlay MP intervened towards the end of the debate (which lasted for less than two hours) and hinted at significant longer term changes in ownership and use of vehicles that many expect when fully automated cars become a significant part of the UK’s motor fleet: “As we take the inherently illogical human being behind the wheel out of the equation, I wonder what the point will be in the future of maintaining one’s own vehicle – a vehicle that spends 95% of its time completely unused.”

It is worth recalling that the new regime in the Bill is to apply only when the automated vehicle is driving itself. When it is being conventionally driven, existing arrangements will continue to apply (i.e. that the motor insurer is liable for losses caused by the negligent use of a vehicle by an insured person). Thus, the new requirement in the Bill may be seen as an extension to the compulsory cover required by s145 of the Road Traffic Act 1988. In fact, the AEVB will add a new subsection to s145 to make this very clear.

The Bill (and its predecessors) has been widely welcomed in principle across the insurance industry and it appears to have general cross-party support. For these reasons it appears likely that any amendments considered during its imminent passage in the Lords might be much more by way of clarification than attempts to change the proposed insurance regime fundamentally. For example, the concept of an accident “caused by” an automated vehicle might be more fully explored.

We shall provide further information as the Bill progresses.


Portrait photograph of Alistair Kinley, Director of Policy & Government Affairs Dale_K-7_web

Written by Alistair Kinley and Kerris Dale at BLM

Eight principles for cyber security of automated vehicles

The legislation on insurance arrangements for automated driving is expected to re-emerge this the autumn, with the Queen’s Speech in June trailing the Automated and Electric Vehicles Bill (replacing the now-lapsed Vehicle Technology and Aviation Bill).

A further critical element of the regulatory regime associated with this rapidly developing technology is ensuring data security and integrity and that concern is front and centre of eight key principles published by the UK government on 6 August 2017.

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October deadline for responding to REFIT review of European motor insurance

The European Commission has just started a review of the legal regime of compulsory motor insurance put in place by the Motor Insurance Directive EC/2009/103 (the MID). The review is the wider REFIT evaluation of all aspects of the MID and is open for responses until 20 October. It therefore runs in parallel with the shorter four week consultation about the inception impact assessment (IIA) for the MID, about which we posted this blog last week.

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Internet of insecurity: liability risks for business

The emergence of the Internet of Things (IoT – the interconnection of everyday objects via the internet) raises important issues relating to security and hacking.  In particular, the potential for civil claims against manufacturers resulting from a failure to provide any or sufficient security is not known.

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Autonomous Vehicles: The Bank of England takes a Prudential View

With Parliament taking a break for the summer we now have to wait until the Autumn for the Bill that will provide the legal underpinning of the changes to UK motor insurance that anticipates the introduction of autonomous vehicles. The notes to the Queen’s Speech in June explain that the main objective of the bill is “to ensure that compensation claims continue to be paid quickly, fairly and easily, in line with longstanding insurance practice.” No doubt the Bill, whenever introduced, is going to be very similar to the Vehicle Technology and Aviation Bill that Alistair discussed when that was introduced in (but did not survive) the last Parliament.

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G(e)nomes and trolls – DNA sequencing and risk

2017 was intended to be a landmark year for the development of ‘genomic services’ – a term coined by the Department for Health in 2012 when it launched the Genomes project. Whilst this year’s initial deadline has passed and been pushed back to 2018, all signs are still pointing towards DNA sequencing being the next big revolution in healthcare advances, with the intention of sequencing 100,000 genomes from NHS patients.

In the early noughties, scientists were hard at work developing the publication of the first complete genome in an effort to provide a DNA bible by which future medicine would abide. However, in 2017 DNA sequencing is now making itself uncompromisingly known in the daily lives of healthcare practitioners in some of the most important fields of treatment.

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Brexit: the return of the Italian Torpedo

The letter to be delivered on Wednesday to the European Commission will have the most profound consequences for this country: your own view as to whether this will be for good or ill will probably reflect your position as a Remoaner or a Brexiteer. What is however certain is that whether the UK’s Article 50 letter is brief and to the point or rather longer as a positioning paper, the devil will rest in the detail of the subsequent negotiations of how Britain and Europe untangle 43 years of EU Law and jurisprudence. The knottiness of the problem is illustrated by a report (in fact merely the 17th report of the session) published by the House of Lords EU Committee which considers some of the access to justice issues that are entangled with Brexit.

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Legislation for automated driving

The 2016 Queen’s Speech included a “Modern Transport Bill” which was intended to set out the compulsory arrangements for insuring automated driving on UK roads. This title has been shelved and today the Vehicle Technology and Aviation Bill was introduced in Parliament to address this issue.

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Can your voice reveal an illness?

With Amazon’s Echo and Echo Dot speaker systems amongst the most popular gifts under the Christmas tree last month, speech recognition and voice control has taken a big step closer to becoming mainstream. What would have appeared cutting edge technology only a few short years ago is now available to households everywhere, at consumer prices.  We can now control our homes using our voices.  Feeling a bit cold?  Ask Alexa to turn up the heating.  Shuffle your music, set an alarm, order groceries or consult the internet.  We can do all of this and more with our voices and now it seems that our voices can also help in diagnosing our symptoms and reveal if we have an illness.

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