The company Adrian Flux has launched what it claims to be the UK’s first personal driverless car insurance policy.
The policy is designed for consumers who already have driverless features in their cars, such as self-parking, or are thinking of buying a car with autopilot features. Fully self-driving cars are not expected to be on the road until 2020 at the earliest, when Volvo has said it plans to launch such vehicles.
Gerry Bucke, the general manager of Adrian Flux, said: “We understand this driverless policy to be the first of its kind in the UK – and possibly the world … More than half of new cars sold last year featured autonomous safety technology, such as self-parking or ABS [anti-lock braking systems], 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.”
Tesla Autopilot software, released late last year, and Nissan Motor’s Infiniti Q50 technology allow drivers to take their hands off the wheel in certain circumstances.
Adrian Flux said said its policy would be updated as both the liability debate and driverless technology evolved. It is estimated that human error is at least partly responsible for more than 90% of current road fatalities.
As a result, a move to self-driving cars is expected to reduce car insurance premiums in the long term. Norfolk-based Adrian Flux, which has 600,000 customers, said that with the potential reduction in accidents, the new policy could be cheaper than standard ones, although other factors, such as location and overnight parking, remained important.
Bucke said: “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.”
The driverless policy has additional features to a standardone. Customers will be covered for loss or damage in case of: failure to install vehicle software updates and security patches, subject to an increased policy excess; satellite failure or outages affecting navigation systems, or failure of the manufacturer’s vehicle operating system or other authorised software; loss or damage caused by a failure to manually override the system to prevent an accident should the system fail; and loss or damage if the car gets hacked.
The modern transport bill announced in last month’s Queen’s speech will extend compulsory cover to accidents where the car, rather than the driver, is at fault. The Association of British Industry welcomed the move and is working with the government on insurance and liability issues, to determine when manufacturers rather than drivers are responsible.
Another major issue is the self-driving car’s vulnerability to hacking. The Jeep manufacturer, Chrysler, was forced to recall cars after researchers showed they could take control of the car via simple text messages.
Testing of driverless cars in the UK has already begun, with the government funding a number of projects. The first trial of self-driving cars in public pedestrianised areas is with the Lutz Pathfinder in Milton Keynes. It involves electric two-seater pods made by the Coventry-based engineering firm RDM and equipped with autonomous control systems developed by the University of Oxford’s mobile robotics group. Volvo has announced it will start testing self-driving cars on public roads in London next year.
A recent survey of nearly 1,800 customers by Adrian Flux revealed very few would consider buying one.
Of those who answered “not likely” to owning a self-driving vehicle, just over 45% said they didn’t like the idea of giving up control to a computer, while 36% said they enjoyed driving too much to hand over the wheel.