Driverless car insurance offered with vague exclusions

10 July 2016 by Steve Blum

A British company claims to be the first to offer driverless car insurance. In a commendably plain english document, the Adrian Flux insurance company offers to cover autonomous car owners against hacking, bad software and the operator’s failure to assume manual control, should it become necessary.

The one thing the policy doesn’t do directly is define “driverless car”. It has definitions for all kinds of things, including what “car” means (a passenger vehicle within certain weight limits that’s not designed to carry cargo or hold more than six people). But nothing about “driverless”.

The only clue about what that might mean comes in the lengthy list of exclusions, which forbids any claims that might result from “being used in an unsafe, unroadworthy or damaged condition or without a valid MOT, Individual Approval Certificate (IAC) and Single Vehicle Approval certificate when one is needed”. In other words, they’ll leave it up to government regulators and inspectors to decide what will and won’t be allowed on the road. And up to vehicle operators to operate it safely.

Presumably, any self-driving features that make it through that process would be okay. Less clear is whether an accident like the recent one in Florida involving a Tesla running in proto-autonomous mode would be covered. Tesla insists that drivers still have to keep their hands on the wheel and their attention on the road when using what it calls Autopilot. Whether the driver in that accident was actually paying attention or, as some witnesses claim, watching a DVD – using the car in “an unsafe… condition”? – is still be determined.