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.
The Government’s preferred approach here is described as “the amended Directive option”. It is probably more pragmatic than the alternative “comprehensive option”, which could give rise to significant complications and unintended consequences for insurers and users of a wide range of motorised vehicles.
A big problem, however, is that we don’t know either what the amendment to the Directive might look like or what might be the timeframe for change – there has been nothing visible from the Commission since the change of the lead Commissioner necessitated by Lord Hill’s resignation after the UK’s EU referendum in June. To this extent, the DfT’s consultation may be in the unenviable position of aiming at a moving target – or even an unknown one.
Nevertheless, it remains important to engage with DfT on the consultation and we shall continue to arrange meetings to address the detail in the 61 page paper. The attached one page summary may offer an easier way in, and please get in touch if you would like to get involved.
About the Author
Alistair Kinley is BLM’s Director of Policy & Government Affairs.
Alistair is responsible for BLM’s engagement with government departments and regulators on policy and public affairs issues and consultations affecting the firm and its customers. He coordinated BLM’s market-facing activities in connection with the Insurance Act 2015 and the consultations which preceded its publication and introduction in Parliament.
He is a member of the Civil Justice Council (CJC), a regular speaker and experienced commentator on legal and procedural reforms and was a contributing editor to the Law Society’s Litigation Funding Handbook (September 2014).
There is huge public interest in the issue of driverless cars with Rory Ceglan-Jones reporting from the driving seat of a BMW at the CES Tech Show in Los Angeles on BBC News last week. The huge investment of not only the traditional manufacturers but also the “tech” companies demands a regulatory response at several levels and the UK Government (with DfT leading) has been at the forefront of recognising the need to change, the opportunities of a safer motor environment and the economic opportunities that arise from encouraging the adoption of the technology.
Transport Minister Andrew Jones MP (Harrogate & Knaresborough) replied this week to questions from Sammy Wilson MP (East Antrim) about how the UK Government intends to deal with the decision of the European Court in Damijan Vnuk v Zavarovalnica Triglav (a Slovenian case).
Mr Wilson – who backed the leave campaign, as did 55% of his constituents – represents a constituency with a large farming sector and his interest in Vnuk seems more likely to stem from that background than from the need for technical alignment of UK and EU motor insurance regimes.
Risk pooling has always been a tough sell – it is hard for the majority of members who are providing the pool of funds for the few that do suffer an event to focus on the value of the peace of mind purchased by the premium. For the consumer, insurance is a pretty remote value proposition (as they no doubt say in “sales”), a grudge purchase that is infrequent. These issues do feed through to reputational issues for the industry and a long term project to inform the public about the value of insurance was recommended by the Insurance Fraud Taskforce last year. This is a very big project and changing attitudes and understanding will take years and will no doubt be set back by every piece of poor press that so easily re-enforces misinformed stereotypes.
Post reports that “Insurers could face becoming “irrelevant” in the age of driverless cars according to a survey of drivers” – see article here.
The rationale behind this seems to be that, according to a LexisNexis study, a significant proportion of drivers expect their cover to become cheaper (or that they may not need insurance at all) once driverless cars become mainstream and, as a result, driving safety improves.
The Government’s consultation about compulsory insurance arrangements associated with fully automated driving remains open until 9 September. It states that: “Our proposal is to extend compulsory motor insurance to cover product liability to give motorists cover when they have handed full control over to the vehicle (ie they are out-of-the-loop). And, that motorists (or their insurers) rely on courts to apply the existing rules of product liability – under the Consumer Protection Act, and negligence – under the common law, to determine who should be responsible.”
This blog looks at whether a ‘product liability’ insurance offering could meet the policy aims of ensuring (a) use of vehicles continues to be covered by insurance and (b) claims by injured road users continue to be adequately protected and handled quickly.
With the UK release of the new Pokemon Go mobile app, the Association of British Insurers (ABI) has issued a warning that users “do not drive whilst playing the game, and are aware of their surroundings at all times.” For those unfamiliar with the ‘augmented reality’ game, it allows users, via their smartphone, to ‘capture’ digital creatures at various real locations.
News of the first reported driver fatality involving an automated vehicle (while in self-driving mode) has broken in the USA.
Whilst understandably this is causing wide concern, and much comment, it is too early to reach firm conclusions about causes and consequences and any suggestion that this is or could be a “watershed moment” for automated and autonomous vehicles will be premature.
It does however serve to remind us that the highly automated vehicles being developed today are not “driverless”; even if the technology involved is very sophisticated, it is still just a tool for us to use and it has limitations that we – as fallible humans – need to understand.