We have called upon the government to urgently offer much greater clarity on the introduction of autonomous vehicles (driverless cars).
This week, in a response to the House of Lords Select Committee on Science and Technology’s call for evidence in relation to supporting driverless cars, we told the Committee that we fear the government does not understand the nature of cyber risk and autonomous vehicles.
Pointing to the government’s earlier consultation this year on driverless vehicles testing facilities, Niall Edwards, Head of the Motor Insurance Group and partner at Kennedys, explains:
“While one question was dedicated to third party hacking in the earlier consultation, it was couched in terms of such an incident being treated, for insurance purposes, in the same way as an accident caused by a stolen vehicle. The brevity of the question and the reasoning behind it suggest that the government does not understand the nature of cyber risk or the best approach to adopt.
“The technology rests with the car manufacturer and the use of that technology and its security rests with the owner of the vehicle. The insurer of a driver of an autonomous vehicle does not have the technology to prevent a vehicle from being hacked. Therefore, the insurer should be able to exclude liability.”
Our response warns that should motor insurers be required to ‘pick up’ the liability in the first instance for accidents caused by hacking, manufacturers might have cause to be less concerned about their responsibility for ensuring, educating and maintaining the cyber security of these systems.
We have also called for an industry-wide group to advise ministers and civil servants on how the technology in this field is developing. Without it, we believe the government will lack the necessary knowledge to inform their thinking on how regulation needs to change.
To assist with regulatory planning, we believe that one of the main objectives of such a group should be to reach a consensus on what type of vehicles are likely to arrive on the UK market over the next 10 years (in incremental stages of, say, two, three, five years and so on).
Niall Edwards says:
“The overriding message we have taken from talking to motor manufacturers is that there is an urgent need for greater direction on what will constitute good, non-negligent, driving behaviour of autonomous vehicles. Such guidance is required for every aspect of vehicle use, from executing a good left turn or overtaking manoeuvre through to more complex driver behaviours.
“What we have heard suggests that this important issue has been left in the gift of and to the imagination of the engineers. In the alternative, what is required is an urgent top-down approach from Government and, in particular, the Department for Transport.”
Kennedys is aware of various ongoing research projects in relation to autonomous vehicles, particularly those being run by TRL, the independent research body into future transport and believe that more funding should be made available to them and others.
The Committee will hold its first evidence session on Tuesday 1 November at 10.30am at the House of Lords.