Liability and insurance in autonomous vehicle complexity mix


Almost all aspects of trucking industry may need to be roped into framework

Liability and insurance in autonomous vehicle complexity mix
Agreeing autonomous vehicle regulation will be a long and dificult task.

 

The value of the National Transport Commission’s (NTC’s) canvassing of autonomous vehicle issues to tease out the detail has been put into sharp relief by Insurance Australia Group’s (IAG’s) submission.

While a strong supporter of the concept on efficiency grounds, it’s submissions for NTC discussion paper on regulatory options for automated vehicles was bound to focus on how any such system handles negative outcomes.

With the insurer covering Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs), commercial vehicle fleets, repairers and agricultural machinery, its more universal outlook has identified more than 10 potential parties to liability in the event of an incident or collision.

These include:

  • the owner of the automated vehicle e.g. for failing to maintain the vehicle if that caused or was a cause of the incident
  • the driver of the automated vehicle e.g. for failing to take back control when required if that caused or was a cause of the incident
  • a passenger in the automated vehicle e.g. for intervening in the vehicles operation if that caused or was a cause of the incident
  • a telecommunications provider e.g. if instructions to the automated vehicle are being conveyed through the providers system and that system malfunctions causing or being a cause of the incident
  • those responsible for building and maintaining roads and road infrastructure e.g. a poorly maintained road that causes issues with the functioning of the automated vehicle causing an incident or being a cause of the incident
  • the manufacturer of the automated vehicle e.g. a manufacturing fault in the vehicle causes or was a cause of the incident
  • the manufacturer of the automated system that goes into the vehicle e.g. if a system issue caused or was a cause an collision
  • a repairer of the automated vehicle e.g. if the repairs were the cause or a cause of an incident
  • an installer of the automated system a vehicle e.g. if the installation was the cause or a cause of the incident
  • any number of third parties e.g. another vehicle accidentally drops oil or something else onto on the road and there is an issue as to how the automated vehicle responds, a tree or something else (that was a known risk) falls in front the automated vehicle and there is an issue as to how the automated vehicle responds, a fault of another vehicle that is automated, the negligent driving of another vehicle that is automated, etc.

It advises a careful and comprehensive review be undertaken given both the numbers of those involved and the many transport scenarios there are.

This would include descriptors and identification of levels of autonomy as they relate to consumers, law makers, insurers, manufacturers and those underwriting statutory personal injury schemes.

"There will need to be a detailed understanding of how this framework will be applied particularly in a mixed fleet scenario, where there will be multiple levels on the road at the same time," IAG says.

"It will be critical to work with a broad set of stakeholders on this to ensure proper consideration of the complex liability issues which will arise.

"IAG considers careful review of this approach should be done primarily because liability for an incident involving an AV will turn on the facts and the circumstances of each individual incident. Incidences when they do occur could be caused by a wide variety of reasons.

"However, we do believe that the principle of simplicity for the consumer should apply and there is a need for a clear avenue for consumer protection and recourse."

In a submission sent in conjunction with IAG’s, the Law Institute of Victoria (LIV) argues for capture and preservation of crucial data going to fault in the operation of an automated driving system at an early stage.

It sees this being best laid with OEMs, along with their insurers, to identify, given that this will be contingent on how the technology develops.

But the institute emphasises the fundamental need for stakeholder involvement, governmental oversight and legislative codification to deflect any danger of vested interest decision-making.

Both the LIV and the Law Society of South Australia (LSSA) underline the need for clarity and national coverage on who the ‘driver’ is and who is in ‘control’ of an automated vehicle if an accident occurs.

But the LSSA has particular concerns about damages delays this complexity infers.

"The less involvement in the driving of a vehicle by a human, the less clear it becomes as to who is responsible for the operation, driving [and] control of the vehicle," it says.

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