Articles, Level 5 Autonomous Driving, Smart Mobility

UK bill on self-driving cars: A solution for liability?

The rise of autonomous driving calls for regulations in terms of liability and responsibility. All around the world governments are working on laws regarding autonomous driving – as happened in Germany, in the USA and other countries in Asia. It seems like a race, whereby every nation wants to be the first to pave the way for autonomous mobility. Now the British government took a step in the right direction by drawing up a law to regulate the insurance in case of an accident with an autonomous car.

UK Testing & Bill 143

Speaking of testing areas for autonomous vehicles Great Britain also upgraded the number of active testing grounds to 3. In these proving grounds different forms of connected and autonomous driving are reviewed in relation to their applicability to road traffic. The British testing grounds are situated in Greenwich, Bristol, Milton Keynes and Coventry. Additional tests are planned in London by the car manufacturers Nissan, Volvo and Ford.
Meanwhile in Germany a new law for autonomous driving is being put in place – but the question of liability is still not really solved. The draft law states that if the driver has to take over control in case of technical failure or malfunction he himself will be the one liable. Here the British bill (HC Bill 143) goes a different way. The government underlines, that the law should enable victims of accidents with self-driving cars to reclaim the costs from the insurer.

Insurance must pay, if…

…an accident is caused by a self-driving car, which was steered by the computer and was insured at the time the accident happened. The insurance does not accept liability for car damage nor the goods carried by any vehicle.
If a court or similar institution decides upon the blame for an accident, the insurance can claim the damage of the guilty party. For example, if the car is capable of driving autonomously but is controlled by the driver, the liability lies with the owner. If there was no insurance at that time of an accident, the owner of that car is liable for the damage.
Also there is no need for the insurance to pay the costs of the accident, if the car was manipulated. Furthermore the owner is responsible for installing all new updates. If the owner fails to do so, the insurance doesn’t have to compensate the damage. In the bill the definition of “driving itself” is worded as follows: “If its operation is not being controlled by an individual”. The Secretary of State must publish a list of cars that are falling under the definition of “automated vehicles”.
In addition to these regulations the law is outlining the target to expand the charging point infrastructure at gas stations. The insurance sector supports the law and it should be enter in force in England, Scotland and Wales, but not in Northern Ireland.
Read the “Vehicle Technology and Aviation Bill (HC Bill 143)

About the author:

David Fluhr is journalist and owner of the digital magazine “Autonomes Fahren & Co”. He is reporting regularly about trends and technologies in the fields Autonomous Driving, HMI, Telematics and Robotics. Link to his site: