How A British Insurance Company Has Made Self-Driving Cars Truly Driverless

Brits Can Now Insure Their Driverless Cars, IEEE Spectrum, Philip E. Ross, June 8, 2016.istockphoto14154578-1465408421372

Adrian Flux, a Norfolk-based insurer “covers any faults that might affect the manufacturer’s software, outages in satellite service, and attempts by hackers to vandalize or commandeer a car. It even covers such seemingly human errors as failing to install a software updates within 24 hours of being notified of their availability and failing to manually override the car’s software when it’s about to make a mistake.

That last proviso may be of particular importance during the long transition from cars driven purely by hand to those driven purely by machine. The one accident in which Google’s car has been found at fault involved a decision by the car’s supervision driver not to override the software when a bus was approaching from behind. The result was a metal-rending scrape, but one that hurt nobody.”

– Philip E. Ross, June 8, 2016, IEEE Spectrum

My notes regarding the IEEE Spectrum article:

Throughout the history of self-driving cars, one question has persisted: “who is going to pay for the inevitable damage that a self-driving car will one day cause?” IEEE Spectrum has covered these issues before, including in a piece which I cited to in my post Self-Driving Cars: Just Be Reasonable, but essentially a huge barrier to innovation in self-driving car technology is the lack of clarity surrounding who will be responsible for damages caused by self-driving vehicles, and to what extent. So the mere fact that Brits now have an answer to that question is pretty awesome. What’s even more incredible is the extent to which Adrian Flux, the insurer, is willing to cover damages caused by the car. Cars which require a human to be on standby in order to take control of the car if it’s about to make a mistake are not truly self-driving vehicles. Fortunately, Adrian Flux recognizes this. Accordingly,  Adrian Flux covers damages which result from a human failing to notice that the car is about to do something wrong. That coverage does what no regulation can do: allows former drivers to officially become passengers in their now truly driverless cars.


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