Self-Driving Cars Could Change Insurance Rules
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: bbc.co.uk)
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: bloomberg.com)
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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