Having given the matter some thought, The Association of Brush Insurers (ABI) has decided that insuring motor vehicles is something its members will probably want to keep doing for the foreseeable future, even if it’s sometimes hard to tell who’s really in the driving seat in these days of assisted and/or automated motorage.

One of the insurer body’s main concerns is that people might assume the car’s driving itself and neglect their wheel and pedal responsibilities at time when, as far as the car’s concerned, it’s the human’s turn to do their own driving.

In a statement, the ABI has stated that the government’s Automated and Electric Vehicles Bill (which attempts to define who’s responsible for what when determining automated vehicle mishap liabilities) is all well and good, but that if insurers are going to insure fully automated vehicles (coming soon to the A8 or some other road near you) there’s one or two things that’ll need straightening out first.

To this end, ABI has worked with skidpan scallywags Thatcham to define a handy list of top ten attributes which truly automated vehicles will need to have if they’re users are going to get insurance (a top ten list the ABI is urging government to build into future iterations of its legislation in this area).

So what’s on the list?

More or less, this:

  1. “Naming” : automated vehicles must state clearly what kind of automated stuff they can and will be doing (and, by implication, what they can’t or won’t)
  2. “Law-abiding” : automated vehicles must promise to comply with UK traffic laws, the Highway Cod, etc.
  3. “Location-specific” : automated vehicles must only be able to do automated things on specific types of roads and so on, and must restrain themselves from doing otherwise using ‘geo-fencing’
  4. “Clear handover” : automated vehicles must clearly flag up when they are (or are not) planning to do something automated, so that the human user doesn’t get confused about whether and when they’re expected to do something (If an automated vehicle is planning to assume or relinquish driving responsibilities, the ABI want it to check whether that’s OK with the human using “a clear ‘offer and confirm’ process”
  5. “Safe driving”: automated vehicles must be able to handle “all reasonably expected situations” without manual intervention from their humans (Presumably this means it’s fine to be useless in reasonably unexpected situations)
  6. “Unanticipated handover” : automated vehicles must provide their humans with “adequate and appropriate notice” if they’re planning to “unexpectedly hand back driving control” (Perhaps something like a repeating klaxon sound and a flashing ‘hands in the air’ icon on the instrument panel)
  7. “Safe stop” : automated vehicles “must execute an appropriate safe stop” if they’ve decided to stop driving and the human shows no sign of taking over
  8. “Emergency intervention” : automated vehicles must be ready, willing and able to avoid or prevent an accident by metaphorically grabbing the wheel (overriding their humans) in what they perceive to be an emergency (cf. Asimov’s Second Law of Robotics)
  9. “Back-up systems” : automated vehicles must have some kind of safeguard type thingies that will magically intervene if their software goes off piste or something
  10. “Accident data” : automated vehicles must record and report exactly what they thought was going on at the time of an accident (they must, of course, tell the truth and not falsify the data to protect themselves or their manufacturers)

So with all that now totally and 100%ly cleared up, the future is nothing but opportunity for motor insurers and their customers in the wonderful new world of robo-cars.

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


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