The LMA has commented that the UK’s ambition to become the centre of the driverless car insurance market is likely to be held back by the general election. The UK government recently announced that it would not pass the Vehicle, Technology and Aviation Bill – the legislation regarding autonomous cars and insurance requirements in relation to the same – until after the general election in June.

The manager of non-marine at the LMA, David Powell, commented that it was in the public interest for the bill to be passed as there is a real need for legislation to catch up with the pace of developments in technology.

The bill was drafted with the assistance and consultation of the insurance industry and its provisions have largely been met with a positive reception from insurers who have agreed that the bill will provide much needed clarity on insurers’ position in relation to driverless cars.

The main issue with autonomous vehicles in the UK is the ability of insurers to determine who is liable in the case of an accident. The bill, which has been described as the world’s first driverless car insurance legislation, proposes to extend compulsory motor insurance requirements to include cover where the automated vehicle is at fault. This means that, regardless of whether a car is controlled by a human driver or is autonomous, victims of road accidents will still be able to pursue the same route of redress. In the first instance the victim of an accident will have a direct right to claim against motor insurers. Where the vehicle is at fault, the insurer will then have a right to recover any sums paid in relation to the accident from, for example the car manufacturer, to the extent there is a liability, including under product liability.

The Bill also provides that where there is an accident in an autonomous car, the comprehensive insurer would be obliged to compensate the innocent third party victim as well as the insured. However, if an accident were to occur as a result of an act or omission of the insured, such as failing to install software updates or due to negligence in allowing the vehicle to drive itself where it was not appropriate to do so, the insurer would be entitled to exclude liability in relation to the claim from the insured.

The bill provides essential legal certainty on insurers’ position in relation to driverless cars and, for that reason, Mr. Powell has urged the proposed bill be resurrected by the winning government following the election as soon as possible.