If an accident is caused by an automated vehicle when driving itself, whilst insured, and it causes anyone to suffer damages, then is the insurer liable for that damage caused?
If the vehicle is not insured is the owner of the vehicle liable for the damage?
To address this the UK has published the Automated and Electric Vehicles Bill.
A vehicle is considered to be ‘driving itself’ if it is operating in a mode in which it is not being controlled, and does not need to be monitored, by an individual.
If it is being monitored or controlled, ordinary principles of negligence will presumably apply. The proposed UK legislation also has a chapter on the recharging of electric vehicles.
If the accident or damage was to any extent caused by the injured party, the law of contributory negligence will be invoked. The UK Bill also deals with an accident resulting from unauthorised software alterations or failure to update software – cover may be excluded for that conduct. Insurers will be given a subrogated right to claim against the person responsible for the accident.
The time is fast approaching when we will need legislation in South Africa to cope with the difficult issues that arise with automated vehicles.