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Where We're Going We Don't Need Roads


Where We're Going We Don't Need Roads

Driverless cars pose interesting liability issues for Personal Injury Solicitor. As any 80’s film fan knows that’s the quote from the end of Back to the Future Part I, issued by Doc Emmett Brown before he fires up his flying DeLorean and whisks Jennifer and Marty into the far flung future – 21 October 2015 to be precise. Whilst it may still be a while before we see flying cars, driverless cars are becoming an ever increasing reality.

Google, Tesla, and even more traditional companies such as Ford and BMW are aiming to have driverless cars on the road as early as the 2020s, however the tech is far from perfect as a series of high-profile crashes has highlighted.

As a personal injury solicitor driverless cars pose some interesting liability issues. Will the cars be fully automated or will a human “driver” still be required as a failsafe? If an automatic car crashes with a human failsafe, who is responsible – the driver for not intervening, or the car producer for providing unsafe tech?

On considering the issue this year the government proposed to amend compulsory insurance to “pave the way” for driverless cars. Specifically, the government’s proposal is to amend compulsory insurance requirements in the Road Traffic Act 1988, so that in addition to motor insurance, the owner must also ensure that there is an insurance policy in place that covers the manufacturers’ and other entities’ product liability.

For my own part, I agree with the response issued by the Association of Personal injury lawyers, which you can read here, namely that in cases where an accident involves a car with automated technology, the injured party should be compensated by his motor insurer on a strict liability (no fault) basis. It would then be on the amply resourced insurer to recoup damages from the at-fault manufacturer of the car. We do for example, already have cars on the road with some form of automated technology, such as self-park and there is no onus on drivers of these cars to purchase an additional policy (at extra expense).

So it seems for the timebeing at least, that whilst we still do need roads, there are some tricky insurance queries to be resolved before driverless cars can get “off the ground”.

Richard Poole is an Associate in our Personal Injury Team. If you have been injured as the result of a road traffic accident please contact Richard on 01382 229111 or email rpoole@thorntons-law.co.uk or contact any member of the Personal Injury team.

Posted by Richard Poole

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