Experts on insurance law from Exeter University warned that a mass hack scenario (one where a group of the same cars is hacked by malicious actors) may not be covered by insurers. Making certain that insurance companies pay out for driverless car accidents, instead of individual drivers and owners, is a key objective behind the AEV Bill.
The same academics also pointed out that the current wording of the bill “refers to a limit of liability for property damage by reference to ‘any one accident’, but it is not clear whether the damage suffered by each item of property involved is an ‘accident’ or whether the word is intended to have an aggregating function. Such caselaw as there is on the word ‘accident’ suggests the former, which is unlikely to be what was intended.”
In addition, the British government itself may be at increased risk of international espionage from driverless vehicles, according to concerns raised by the British Vehicle Leasing and Rental Association. The association’s Patrick Cusworth observed that most software updates to driverless vehicles would take place “over the air” and explained that “several BVRLA members have already indicated they will not accept this as it would mean that sensitive customer, driver and/or vehicle data could potentially be accessed by the manufacturer, negating both privacy and customer confidentiality.”
The Ministry of Defence is a major customer for leased vehicles that it uses in its so-called “white fleet” of minibuses, coaches and lorries to inconspicuously drive personnel and military equipment around the country.
The MoD’s policy of self insurance – the department has no insurance, instead paying damages straight out of the defence budget for accidents it causes – is also causing headaches for BVRLA members who said that, under the AEV Bill’s current wording, “liability for accidents [with driverless vehicles] … would fall upon the vehicle owner/provider – i.e. the BVRLA member – rather than either the driver or the vehicle manufacturer.”
Though the government’s Centre for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles told the BVRLA this would not happen and liability could be shifted to the MoD through leasing contracts, the BVRLA is not convinced.