What does the Vehicle Technology and Aviation Bill mean for CAVs?

15th March 2017

The Vehicle Technology and Aviation Bill (formerly known as the Modern Transport Bill) was published recently and received its Second Reading in the House of Commons last week. It contains a specific section on the insurance framework for automated vehicles and the key elements to highlight are:

  • Single insurer model;

  • Strict liability (effectively) on insurer to pay in first instance;

  • Rights of recovery under existing legislation i.e. contributory negligence and products liability; and

  • Onus on owner to complete software updates and not to use the vehicle in a manner it was not intended for.

This is an incredibly useful starting point and will provide for the development of automated vehicle technology. On the one hand consumer trust should be boosted by a simple and recognisable insurance model and, on the other, meaningful R&D will not be stifled by OEMs and software designers being held to an unreasonably high standard of liability.

So far, so good.

It’s also important, however, to look forward. The Bill has deliberately been designed with the evolution of CAV technology in mind. This area is moving so quickly that to try and legislate for all outcomes now would defeat the purpose of what we are all working to achieve. From a FLOURISH perspective the connectivity aspect is our main focus and this does raise questions from an insurance perspective.

As we move towards CAVs becoming a reality, it would be preferable to avoid an unnecessarily proprietary approach to essential data requirements. If the goal is to create a transport eco-system that is rooted in connectivity then it is important to recognise that relevant information will be generated by on board automated features, by vehicle to vehicle (V2V) communications and by vehicle to infrastructure (V2I) communications.

Looking at the Vehicle Technology and Aviation Bill and the rights of recovery that it affords insurers it would be in a variety of parties' interests (including vehicle manufacturers) to agree a way of standardising and allowing access to key information in the event of an accident involving a connected and autonomous vehicle. At a minimum it would seem to make sense to share a GPS record of the time and location of the incident, confirmation of whether the vehicle was in autonomous or manual mode and, if in autonomous mode, whether it was driving or parking and when the driver's last interaction with the vehicle was.

The ultimate goal from an insurance perspective would be to have a standard set of data agreed at an international level which would be easily available in the event of an accident involving a highly automated vehicle. The Vehicle Technology and Aviation Bill has made a good start by placing people’s protection at its heart and that must remain the guiding principle as we begin to consider the new and emerging risks/opportunities that CAVs present.

Authored by: Daniel O'Byrne, AXA.

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