Insurer launches the UK’s first driverless car policy

Thinking Highways
By Thinking Highways June 10, 2016 19:02

Insurer launches the UK’s first driverless car policy


 

  • Driverless cars some way away, but assistance features already include autopilot and self-parking
  • Cover against crashes caused by not being able to manually override an autonomous system
  • Policy also includes cover for damage or loss caused by hackers 
  • US Tesla Model X owner tries to blame car for crashing into a building
  • Carmaker responds, saying the female driver from California was at fault

Experts have predicted that fully-autonomous cars won’t be on the road until 2050, but one insurer has got well ahead of the game by preparing for a driverless future.

Specialist provider Adrian Flux launched the UK’s first personal driverless car insurance policy on Tuesday, providing cover for those who already have part-autonomous features in their car, such as self-parking systems and Tesla’s AutoPilot.

With fully driverless cars still very much in their infancy and not expected to become mainstream for another 30 years, the policy does cover you if you suffer loss or damage at the hands of hackers in one of today’s vehicles.

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It wasn't me: Adrian Flux is the first insurer to offer a driverless car policy, though it's relevant to cars today rather than to those that won't be on the market for another 30 years

It wasn’t me: Adrian Flux is the first insurer to offer a driverless car policy, though it’s relevant to cars today rather than to those that won’t be on the market for another 30 years

So far, the majority of collisions involving driverless cars during trials have been due to human error.

However, Google admitted in March that one of its experimental vehicles was at fault for an accident with a bus in the US after it had misinterpreted where the other driver was going.

It’s these types of incidents that have caused hot debate, with many questioning how insurance for autonomous cars will work if a person cannot be held accountable for a collision.

It was even a feature point of the Queen’s Speech last month when Her Majesty introduced a Modern Transport Bill including insurance cover that extends to accidents caused by the vehicle technology.

And now the first driverless car policy has emerged as a result, though the features of the cover aren’t only applicable to cars of the future.

Gerry Bucke, general manager at Adrian Flux, said: ‘As the UK continues to invest in driverless research in preparation for the growing market for autonomous vehicles in the near future, we wanted to help provide confidence and clarity around the ongoing debate.

‘More than half of new cars sold last year featured autonomous safety technology such as self-parking or ABS, which effectively either take control or take decisions on behalf of the driver. And it’s only going to continue.

‘Driverless technology will become increasingly common in our cars over the next few years. We want this policy to reflect this transition and evolution.

‘We already provide discounts for cars fitted with assistive technology such as autonomous braking as it has been proved to reduce accidents, and therefore claims. This is a natural continuation of the work that’s already gone into this area.’

Ford's Fusion Hybrid has been used by the American carmaker to conduct driverless car trials in the US

Ford’s Fusion Hybrid has been used by the American carmaker to conduct driverless car trials in the US

The new driverless policy will cover customers for loss or damage in the following scenarios:

1. If updates or security patches for things like firewalls, operating systems, electronic mapping and journey planning systems haven’t been successfully installed in the vehicle within 24 hours of the owner being notified by the manufacturer or software provider, subject to an increased policy excess.

2. If there are satellite failure/outages that affect the navigation systems, or if the manufacturer’s operating system or authorised software fails.

3. Where there is loss or damage caused by failing, when able, to use manual override to avoid a collision or accident in the event of operating system, navigation system or mechanical failure.

4. For loss or damage if your car gets hacked or an attempted hack results in loss or damage.

According to the Institution on Mechanical Engineers, 95 per cent of today’s traffic collisions won’t take place when fully-autonomous vehicles become mainstream in 2050.

Philippa Oldham, head of transport at the Institution of the Mechanical Engineers and lead author of  the Autonomous and Driverless report released in February, said: ‘We need to urgently resolve legislative, technological and insurance issues to help encourage the rollout of autonomous or driverless vehicles.

‘The benefits to this sort of technology are huge, with estimates that the overall UK economic benefit could be as much as £51 billion a year due to fewer accidents, improved productivity and increased trade.’

Telsa Model X owner tries to blame car for crash

An owner of the new Tesla Model X SUV in California claimed his car had accelerated on its own accord while his wife was trying to park on Monday, crashing into the side of a building as a result.

The wreckage appeared on a YouTube video moments later, accumulating over 16,000 views in the space of 24 hours.

US website Electrek contacted Tesla to discover if it was possible for the Model X – an $83,000 car with ‘Falcon Wing’ rear doors – to crash itself.

‘We analysed the vehicle logs which confirm that this Model X was operating correctly under manual control and was never in Autopilot or cruise control at the time of the incident or in the minutes before,’ a statement from Tesla read.

‘Data shows that the vehicle was traveling at 6mph when the accelerator pedal was abruptly increased to 100 per cent. Consistent with the driver’s actions, the vehicle applied torque and accelerated as instructed.

‘Safety is the top priority at Tesla and we engineer and build our cars with this foremost in mind. We are pleased that the driver is okay and ask our customers to exercise safe behavior when using our vehicles.’

The owner of the Tesla Model X said the car accelerated on its own while his wife was attempting to park

The unnamed owner responded to the statement on the website, saying: ‘My wife is a 45-year-old woman with a great driving record. Not an incapacitated driver. She has been going to that center for over 20 years and parking in the same stalls hundreds of times.

‘She knows the difference between brake and accelerator pedal. I am waiting to hear from Tesla whether the accelerator pedal can be depressed by the car electronically similar to gas-powered cars’ pedal being depressed on their own while in cruise control.’

 

Thinking Highways
By Thinking Highways June 10, 2016 19:02