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killer self-drive vehicle negligence - a new claims era?

21 March 2018
As news has emerged of the first reported case in the US involving a self-driving car killing a pedestrian, it is interesting to consider the future claims climate in its wake.

Although a human driver was in the vehicle (in this case an Uber car) it had been placed in 'autonomous' mode. However, the car’s technology failed to detect/prevent the fatal collision with the pedestrian who had been attempting to cross the road, although not at a designated crosswalk.

Self-drive technology is criticised for the robot car’s inability to adequately predict and respond, not only to human behaviour but to other unpredictable factors such as the weather.

The safety of self-drive technology has previously been challenged - the driver of a Tesla motor vehicle died in 2016 when in 'autopilot' it failed to detect a large truck and trailer which turned across its path, resulting in the vehicle driving at full speed underneath it.

In light of the Government’s ongoing 3 year Law Commission review it is not expected that driverless cars will be on the UK roads until 2021 at the earliest however with advances in motor technology civil liability in road traffic incidents (with the current law assuming human responsibility) will be intriguing, complex and require careful consideration by motor insurers.

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