December 2018


Autonomous vehicle ethics examined

by Kate Tilley, Resolve Editor

Autonomous vehicles will create an additional premium pool of $81 billion, but other insurances, for example CTP, will decline, Wotton + Kearney partner Paul Spezza told the AILA Queensland insurance law intensive.

New products for autonomous vehicles (AVs) included cyber, product liability, public infrastructure, product recall, and PI for designers. Mr Spezza said policies would shift from consumers to manufacturers. "Will CTP become an anachronism? Probably. But the lost premium from CTP will be taken up by other products."

While CTP may not respond because there was no driver at fault, liability could lie with vehicle importers and manufacturers, road infrastructure providers, software providers and AV service providers.

"There will be less litigation because of fewer accidents but litigation will be more complex, global, and require greater expert evidence on causation," Mr Spezza said.

"Large scale global recalls may become the norm."

He said some but not all manufacturers had assumed liability, to give consumers greater confidence.

AVs would be on Australian roads within 10 years but the timing depended on supporting infrastructure, legislation and acceptance.

Globally, there were 1.2 billion vehicles on the roads and 93% of accidents were caused by human error. Mr Spezza predicted 90% of motor vehicle accidents would be preventable with AVs, prompting a 75% reduction in motor premiums.

Levels of automation varied, with the top level being zero human intervention. "We're currently at level three, where the car monitors the environment but a human driver must be ready to intervene," Mr Spezza said.

AVs' advantages were road safety; better mobility; reduced congestion; fewer vehicles (increased ride sharing); freight distribution efficiencies; and fewer parking lots so more urban space. "It will transform how we live," Mr Spezza predicted.

But Australia was not ready because the regulatory framework was not in place and the nation was hampered by its federalism model. The National Transport Commission had identified 716 pieces of legislation that needed amending and there was "a lot of fragmentation across the nation".

Other issues hampering AV introduction were:

• Road infrastructure readiness
• Responsibility for traffic infringements
• Accident liability
• Data collection and privacy
• Ethics - if an AV was going to hit a school bus full of kids or hit a wall, likely killing the driver, what would happen? Germany was the first nation to introduce ethical guidelines for AVs in 2017.

Mr Spezza said the technology was not perfect, for example, one brand of AVs could not detect kangaroos because they hopped rather than walked or ran. There had been fatalities in AV tests.

A KPMG survey found Australia lagged the Netherlands, Singapore, the USA and New Zealand in readiness. "Current legislation does not allow a vehicle to drive itself, the 'driver' must be the legal driver and therefore responsible for any accidents."

Mr Spezza said most States were trialling AVs. Qld had the Cooperative and Automated Vehicle Initiative (CAVI) in progress. Ipswich would be the test site.

NSW had amended legislation in 2017 to ensure CTP and public liability insurance were required for all trials and AV shuttle bus trials were "on the way".

SA had similar legislation and a Flinders University AV ran from the campus to the train station and the hospital. But a 2016 trial had seen an AV "plough into an inflatable kangaroo".

RAC in WA introduced a French-designed Intellibus in 2016 which carried 15 passengers and travelled at 45kph around a 3.5km South Perth site.

The ACT had introduced CanDrive, which has 30 drivers trialling level three AVs.

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the New Zealand Insurance Law Association.