With less than a month to go to the referendum on the UK’s membership of the EU, it seems strange that the wackier consequences of compliance with the decision in Vnuk have not yet been trailed out by those hoping to leave the Union. After all, we’ve only just had a spat about whether the EU requires us to sell bananas in bunches of threes or fours and headlines along the lines of “Bonkers EU means Granny’s motability scooter has to be insured!” would hardly be any less edifying.
The driverless cars from Total Recall and Knight Rider once seemed a far-fetched concept, but that future is already becoming a reality. Take a trip to the Greenwich Peninsula and you might ride the (admittedly less glamorous) Meridian Shuttle. Trials have also been approved for Bristol, Milton Keynes and Coventry. The UK Government has pledged £100m in funding through Innovate UK, and producers, insurers and local councils are already involved in trial projects.
Audi’s A8 with piloted parking launches in 2017/2018, where the driver exits the vehicle, presses a button on their smartphone, and the car drives to a nearby parking bay. By 2020 BMW, Nissan and Volvo intend to sell driverless cars. Nearly 230,000 driverless cars are expected to be sold globally in 2025, rising to 11.8 million in 2035, according to global analytics company IHS. The science-fiction is becoming fact.
4 September 2015 marks the first anniversary of the Court of Justice of the European Union’s Vnuk judgment and whilst there remains much discussion there is little certainty as to how the RTA can best be brought into line with European law. At best it can be said that options are starting to emerge but there is at present little consensus around the likely legislative outcome that will be preferred.
I thought Alistair Kinley made a very valid point, in his earlier article of 13 August, calling for constructive solutions to the Vnuk problem. There needs to be a balance drawn between the protection of victims of accidents arising out of motor vehicles and the potential scope, post-Vnuk, of compulsory third party motor insurance (TPMI). Notably, TPMI will be required to cover use of vehicles, off-road, that may result in a contrived or potentially unworkable insurance solution.
Motorsport is an obvious example. At present, motorsport events that occur off-road are not subject to TPMI. Authorised motorsports events are licensed by the sport’s governing body through permits that extends public liability (PL) and personal accident cover for participants and event organisers. However this PL cover does not cover driver-to-driver liability. With this PL risk, post-Vnuk, potentially transferring over to a TPMI risk, not only does this give rise to some interesting liability questions, such as, how does one assess liability in a driver-to-driver collision when racing, but also fundamentally, with unquantified exposure, will there will be any appetite from motor insurers to underwrite the sport in the first instance?