Driverless cars raise liability concerns, says leading underwriter

Insurers and brokers need to dedicate more time to thinking about liability in regards to driverless cars, according to David Williams, head of underwriting at AXA.

Insurers and brokers need to dedicate more time to thinking about liability in regards to driverless cars, according to David Williams, head of underwriting at AXA.

Speaking at Britain’s Smart Cities conference, Williams said customers, manufacturers and insurers need clarity on who is responsible in driverless car accidents.

Driverless cars raise liability concerns, says leading underwriter

With manufacturers predicting that fully driverless cars will be on British roads within the next 15 years, this technology is no longer considered a concept but is fast becoming a reality.

“Driverless vehicles are a challenge for the insurance industry but this technology does have the potential to revolutionise people's lives for the better,” said Williams.

Disputes over liability will stem from whether the manufacturer, software maker or owner is responsible, and what happens if the car is hacked – something that has been proven possible by researchers earlier this year.

Williams said that before fully autonomous cars arrive on the roads, sensors and telematics will need to be used to record whether the driver has handed over control to the car.

KPMG research suggests semi-autonomous vehicles, where the driver can take their hands off the wheel, will be commonplace by 2025, with fully autonomous vehicles arriving five years later.

Currently there are three driverless projects being tested in Britain, while Volvo is gearing up to test a fleet of 100 semi-autonomous vehicles in Gothenburg in 2017.