When a machine is in control and does something wrong – who’s responsible for it? It’s a question that’s left many an insurance provider scratching their heads when it comes to the issue of driverless cars. But the government has set out some new proposals in their ‘Vehicle technology and aviation bill’ which clarifies exactly where the car, the driver and the insurance provider, stands.

The government have made it clear that insurance policies for driverless cars must cover the car when it is self-driving and for when it is being driven by the owner. It’s hoped that by doing this, it will be easier for anyone involved in an accident, to make a claim.

Under the proposals, if a car is driving itself, then the owner is not responsible for any incidents that occur – leaving the insurance provider liable for meeting any claims costs. However, if the driver has tampered with the car’s software and made unauthorised changes, or if the owner has failed to install a software update; then the owner is responsible for damages. Insurance providers who find that they do have to cough up for self-driving cars gone rogue, are able to try and recoup costs from the manufacturer. The law will only apply in England, Wales and Scotland; Northern Ireland is excluded.

It’s a move that’s been welcomed by both insurance providers and the ABI (Association of British Insurers) as it provides some much needed clarity for the industry. There’s no question that automated cars will be a revolutionary change for our roads and will provide huge benefits to those who cannot drive due to disability.

Around 95% of all car accidents are caused by some form of human error so taking out the risky human driving element could save numerous lives. But it’s not just that, insurance providers should hopefully save themselves a whole lot of money because (fingers crossed) fewer claims will be made. And in the long term that should mean car insurance premiums actually start to go down.

This also isn’t to be confused with any semiautonomous active-safety features in modern cars, such as adaptive cruise control, lane assist or blind spot assistance. As the names suggest these are solely to assist drivers and were anything to happen, then the driver is typically responsible.

But don’t get too excited yet at the prospect of cheaper car insurance for driverless cars, because all of this is still theoretical and we probably can’t expect to own or to regularly see driverless cars on the roads for at least another decade. Until then, you’ll just have to make do with getting around the old 20th century way – in a car with a steering wheel that you have to turn yourself. And of course, that means making sure you have adequate insurance because if anything goes wrong – you can’t blame the car. So, it’s back to reality and comparing the market for great deals on your car insurance – let’s go.

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