February 11, 2017

“Automated vehicles have the potential to transform our roads in the future and make them even safer and easier to use, as well as promising new mobility for those who cannot drive.”

That was the enticing vision of a road-changing futopia laid out by Transport Secretary Chris Greything recently.

Speaking as he announced that the government has had a bit of think about the complexities around automated vehicles (AV) and decided what to do about them, Greything explained that it’s all perfectly simple really.

Previously there had been quite a bit of confusion and speculation around whether it would be insurers, car makers or perhaps even roads who should be held responsible when AVs are involved in accidents.

But now the government has decided that responsibility should lie squarely with motorists themselves. Once robo-cars are finally being used in anger on our roads, sometime around 2020 according to latest estimates, those intending to drive them will be required to purchase special 2in1 policies that cover both the drivers of AVs when operated in manual and the technology that drives them when in autopilot mode.

Presumably if they’re being used in some combination of auto and manual modes it will also cover the grey area in between. Or something.

The beauty of putting everything in one basket, insurance wise, so to speak, is that – provided the AV owner-operator has remembered to buy some insurance and not invalidated it in any way, their insurer will be happy to pick up the tab for whatever goes wrong and not have to worry too much about what went wrong and why.

Insurers will then be able, Greything cheerily insisted, to simply claim back any element of their loss that’s more down to the carmaker than the driver from the manufacturer in question.

Pessimists might suspect this might be easier in theory than in practice – or that it might even involve getting ‘experts’ like lawyers or forensic engineers involved. But none of this actually matters, because AV technology is so much better than people at driving that there basically won’t be any accidents that aren’t the fault of the driver.

All of which means that drivers who keep their robocars in automode all the time will basically get their insurance pretty much free – due to the negligible chance of anything ever going wrong.

A spokesperson for the Association of Brush Insurers (ABI) confirmed to the Daily Telegraph that “uncertainty around the introduction of driver-less cars could initially make motor insurance more expensive. Over the long term, however, driverless technology might potentially make policies cheaper, eventually.

See now, that wasn’t so complicated, was it!

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