back to article New UK laws address driverless cars insurance and liability

Insurers would be primarily responsible for paying out damages stemming from accidents caused by "automated vehicles" under new UK legislation laid before the UK parliament. The Vehicle Technology and Aviation Bill sets out how the liability for accidents involving automated vehicles should be apportioned, and factors in …

  1. ZanzibarRastapopulous

    30 years....

    So for 30 years no-one has been quite sure who was responsible if the DLR went wrong and killed someone?!

    1. Electron Shepherd

      Re: 30 years....

      I think the difference is that the tracks on the DLR are not the public highway.

      1. lglethal Silver badge
        Joke

        Re: 30 years....

        Lets put it this way - if you get your car on the DLR tracks, not only are you liable for the Crash, but HOW THE F%&K DID YOU GET YOUR CAR ON THE DLR TRACKS!!!!! :P

        1. Rich 11 Silver badge

          Re: 30 years....

          HOW THE F%&K DID YOU GET YOUR CAR ON THE DLR TRACKS!!!!!

          My car is Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.

          Well, at least approximately that old and noisy.

        2. Trigonoceps occipitalis

          Re: 30 years....

          Maybe I need to update my Satnav?

          1. Danny 14 Silver badge

            Re: 30 years....

            If it possible then a white transit would already have been there, done that and cut up a DLR train by now.

  2. hatti

    Driverless Upgrades

    The insurance industry potentially has a lot to lose if the level of incidents from driverless cars drops dramatically as the software becomes increasingly more reliable and AI and machine learning become factors for the future.

    Possibly a future range of driverless car software plugins too, such as 'school run' and 'fetch milk'.

    1. Siberian Hamster

      Re: Driverless Upgrades

      Surely quite the reverse, if there are no accidents then the insurance companies pay out NOTHING EVER! It's their version of utopia, because you can bet your insurance premium won't come down much if at all.

      1. bazza Silver badge

        Re: Driverless Upgrades

        No, because if every car is self driving, and the accident rate drops to an official "zero", there'd never be any need for insurance in the first place. It would be legal madness to compel people to insure themselves against a third party liability when the law says it's the manufacturer at fault.

        The new law is a little bit worrying - it says that the liability rests with the driver if they're using the car in self driving mode "inappropriately". Now, what the hell is that supposed to mean? Either it's a self driving car that can do the whole job all the time, or it's simply a car with an advanced cruise control that actually has to be watched like a hawk in case it craps out on the driver, leaving them with precious little time to wake from their slumbers to take control and avoid the terrible outcome for which they will be blamed. Rubbish.

        1. Graham Dawson

          Re: Driverless Upgrades

          Insurance doesn't just cover collision accidents. Theft, fire and if you're fully comp, breakdowns and other issues with the vehicle are also covered.

        2. hplasm Silver badge
          Holmes

          Re: Driverless Upgrades

          "...legal madness ..."

          The one with no cure.

  3. daldred

    I'm quite possibly missing something here - but isn't this saying (in long and convoluted language) that if a vehicle is insured with an insurer, the insurer is responsible for the insured losses?

    What's actually new?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Blue Windscreen of Death

      The insurer will just say, "well, the driver only had CarOS version 3.3.3.5 installed, and hadn't updated to CarOS v3.3.3.6, so we cant be held responsible for this!"

      1. m0rt Silver badge

        Re: Blue Windscreen of Death

        But they *did* insure the car when it had 3.3.3.5 installed. So why would that version, all of a sudden, not be insurable?

        So what this means is that some kind of body will have to state: We accept this version as insurable.

        That same body will also have to state: This version has X bug, so is no longer insurable after X date.

        Now since you can't really allow the manufacturers police their own releases, due to conflict of interests, (Hi Tesla!), this means that there needs to be a very high quality, and comprehensive testing policy that determines that something is suitable.The insureres will have to ratify that they will trust this body. I suppose this is similar to determining thata vehicle is roadworthy. This will need to be paid for, and paid for it will be by the manufacturers, and therefore by the consumers.

        As it ever was, thus.

        DVSA (nee VOSA) could be onto a winner, here..

        1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

          Re: Blue Windscreen of Death

          I suppose this is similar to determining thata vehicle is roadworthy.

          More than just similar, it is determining if it's roadworthy.

          Something like an MOT would determine if the car is running an acceptably recent version of the SW, if not then it fails and is uninsured.

          If there's a critical safety patch, the manufacturer has the responsibility to recall & fix the problem, just as they would if a mechanical probem was found, say with the brakes.

        2. Red Bren

          Re: Blue Windscreen of Death

          "But they *did* insure the car when it had 3.3.3.5 installed. So why would that version, all of a sudden, not be insurable?"

          Because v3.3.3.6 includes the new Highway Code rule that states self-driving vehicles must follow some arbitrary requirement. Your car is X.Y years old and just out of warranty. The manufacturer only releases updates for cars up to X years old so what do you do? Your car is effectively uninsurable and worthless.

          1. SImon Hobson Silver badge

            Re: Blue Windscreen of Death

            > The manufacturer only releases updates for cars up to X years old so what do you do? Your car is effectively uninsurable and worthless.

            Indeed, and there are other scenarios as well.

            So apart from being able to effectively send all models of a certain age to the scrapheap, there's the "protection racket" issue - in effect, the owner will have no choice but to pay whatever the manufacturer charges for updates.If the manufacturer won't provide updates unless you pay an annual "service charge" then you have to pay that charge. Annual charge more than the value of the car - tough.

            So the ever decreasing practical life of a car, mostly due to technology and the cost of what would once have been simple and cheap repairs, takes another step.

            And it's retrospective as well - unless the manufacturers are forced to state future service costs for some arbitrary future lifetime, then there's no way to know in advance of purchase what the car is going to cost to keep "insurable". yes there's a certain amount of unknown in it now - but at least the cost of parts etc tends to be generally predictable.

            And of course, it opens up further opportunities for gouging and lock-in. Want updates ? We'll only provide them through our franchised dealer network ! Want new brake pads ? Oh didn't you notice the mention on page seventy-eleven of the 6 point T&Cs that the pads have software in them to talk to the autonomous driving system, so you can only use our own pads at a 1000% markup compared to what the very same pads (from the same factory) without our name on would cost, and only available through our franchised dealers who are the only ones with the tools to re-code the car to the new pads !

            Yup, I reckon these proposed rules herald a new era of vendor lock-in.

      2. Smooth Newt Silver badge
        Meh

        Re: Blue Windscreen of Death

        Expect the Government to bail out the insurance companies with wheelbarrow loads of money in twenty years time when they are all facing bankruptcy following some external problem like a solar flare or a 32 bit epoch rollover and a few million cars running the same software all crash at the same time.

    2. ArrZarr Silver badge

      Black: The new black

      More laying out the ground rules than introducing anything earth-shattering but IMO the important bits are that insurers effectively wouldn't be liable unless these three criteria are fulfilled:

      1. The car is on the list of cars you can legally drive autonomously in the UK

      2. Patches installed

      3. The software isn't tinkered with

      (2) will be interesting if you don't have a readily accessible internet connection

      (3) will be interesting when the determined tinkerer finds a way around the safeguards & can reset on a whim

    3. Jason Bloomberg Silver badge
      Pint

      What's actually new?

      Nothing much but it does define who is by default responsible should the worse happen and that is very significant, a question many people have asked and pondered. I think it's the right and fair decision.

    4. 's water music Silver badge

      I'm quite possibly missing something here - but isn't this saying (in long and convoluted language) that if a vehicle is insured with an insurer, the insurer is responsible for the insured losses?

      What's actually new?

      I think that what is new is that with an automated vehicle there was a lot more scope for arguing that liability lay with a third-party (the manufacturer) and for the insurer to disavow responsibility (having covered the liabilities of the insured 'driver'). Those arguments can still take place but the injured parties will get compo from the insurer in the mean time.

      1. Danny 14 Silver badge

        Insurance companies want you to pay them but Ford to payout.

    5. LeeE Silver badge

      When is an insurer not an insurer?

      "...if a vehicle is insured with an insurer, the insurer is responsible for the insured losses?"

      Well, there's also this snippet from the article...

      "Insurers would not be liable for damages stemming from accidents caused by 'automated vehicles' if the vehicle has not been insured."

      ...which seems like a rhetorical tautology.

  4. gnasher729 Silver badge

    Q very simple and sensible rule - if a car is on the road and driving, whether with or without a driver, it must have third party liability insurance. What I don't like is that the insurance company can get out of paying if the owner misbehaves. What should happen is that they have to pay the victim, and then of course the insurance should be able to recover the money from anyone who was responsible. Plus the possibility to take legal action _before_ an accident happens.

    I would think that like with cars with a driver, the insurance cost would depend on the number and cost of accidents that the insurance has to pay for.

    1. Trigonoceps occipitalis

      In the UK Insurance Companies, through the MIB, pay out when uninsured drivers are at fault. They are free to recover from the "guilty party". Quite often the guilty party has no funds but the victim still gets a payout. Of course the law abiding, insured drivers are paying for this one way or another through increased premiums.

      I imagine that something equivalent will apply to autonomous vehicles once they become popular. It should apply if the software is out of date, just as the MIB is on the hook if some prat has doubled the power of his car and left the brakes as standard.

      (Simplified statement of the MIB responsibilities.)

  5. J.G.Harston Silver badge

    It seems a sensible clarification of the current position - you must be insured to use a vehicle on the public highway, and the first onus is on the insurer.

  6. earl grey Silver badge
    Devil

    you're shafted no matter what

    didn't update your software - guilty

    did update your software - guilty

    let your self-driving car actually self-drive - guilty

    didn't use the self-driving feature - guilty

    ran over 42 little kids - extra guilty

  7. M7S

    failed to "install software updates to the vehicle’s operating system - hmm

    At work we've a policy of reviewing patches and the like before rolling them out, and both there (and at home) we wait a couple of weeks before running things like MS update on the Windows boxes in case there's a problem or something unannounced and generally unwanted, which is why I am not currently typing this on Windows 10, nor do I have an unwanted U2 album in my iTunes.

    Given that most members of the public, and in relation to vehicle software I include myself in that, will not be in a position to review the updates and will probably default to "automatic updates" this seems to suggest that the public highways will in effect become a beta testing ground with unaware participants both inside and outside those vehicles. It's all very well saying that the insurance will be valid, and I agree it needs to be, but if some buggy implementation that people cannot uninstall when a problem becomes apparent means I am run over more frequently or knocked off my motorcycle, its not really going to endear me further to the idea of autonomous vehicles about which I am otherwise ambivalent, with a slight bias towards hopefulness.

    I recall that there was an Apple OS update for Macs a few years back ago that broke things and people wanted to roll back but were told something along the lines of "you cant" (the previous version was pulled from the website) or "there's no provision to do so". If this applied to cars, telling people unable (for example) to use public transport that they can't drive to work or pick up the kids is a bit more serious than saying they cant use their personal computer for a bit.

    1. Rich 11 Silver badge

      Re: failed to "install software updates to the vehicle’s operating system - hmm

      this seems to suggest that the public highways will in effect become a beta testing ground

      Since beta testing should clearly comprise a smaller set than the full customer group, I propose that Slough should become the beta testing ground. And they can use Swindon for the alpha.

    2. Filippo

      Re: failed to "install software updates to the vehicle’s operating system - hmm

      That all depends on how exactly the bit that states that insurers can seek compensation from manufacturers work.

    3. S4qFBxkFFg

      Re: failed to "install software updates to the vehicle’s operating system - hmm

      M7S: "...will not be in a position to review the updates and will probably default to "automatic updates""

      I would be very surprised if it is even possible to disable automatic updates short of keeping the vehicle in a Faraday cage or physically removing its SIM(s) and radio(s).

      Incidentally, the slashdot version of this story was amusing in that their headline stated the vehicles themselves would be held liable - I imagined punishments such as being forced to charge from a square wave supply for minor infractions, all the way up to having the OS replaced with Windows ME for actually killing someone.

      1. Lee D Silver badge

        Re: failed to "install software updates to the vehicle’s operating system - hmm

        I wanna see an automated car negotiate the Hanger Lane gyratory.

        If they can pass through that unscatched, then I think they're ready to go on the roads.

        I imagine, however, that they would spend their lives stuck on the roundabout entrance never quite managing to get anywhere.

        1. Swarthy Silver badge

          Re: failed to "install software updates to the vehicle’s operating system - hmm

          I see your Hanger Lane gyratory test and raise you the Swindon magic roundabout.

          1. katrinab Silver badge

            Re: failed to "install software updates to the vehicle’s operating system - hmm

            That is just 5 mini roundabouts arranged in a circle, so shouldn't be too difficult for a computer.

            1. Mark York 3 Silver badge
              Go

              Re: failed to "install software updates to the vehicle’s operating system - hmm

              The Magic Roundabout is fantastically brilliant to drive through.

              I used to whip around that thing in seconds (for some reason that junction always clogged up when it was raining), you just had to get into the mindset of effectively going the wrong way around, which was the way it was intended to be used.

              If you think of it as packets of network traffic, I can see it actually being well suited for such a AI as the approaching traffic could be shaped to go around in the most efficient manner depending on the intended destination.

  8. tony
    Happy

    Appropriate

    "negligence in allowing the vehicle to drive itself when it was not appropriate to do so"

    Phew, at least theres a nice unclear term for lawyers to argue over on somebody elses dime.

    1. Paul Crawford Silver badge

      Re: Appropriate

      I wondered about that, what exactly will those restrictions be?

      Some 512 page EULA from the car company about not one roads without XYZ accuracy of GPS maps being created, etc, that you can't practically verify yourself? Or with snow or ice on roads, etc?

      Really, it should be simple:

      1) It is manual - drive it yourself

      2) It is motorway use only where simple lane tracking is OK (i.e. enhanced cruse control)

      3) It actually drives itself and you don't have ANY responsibility for its actions beyond setting the destination.

    2. Crazy Operations Guy

      Re: Appropriate

      I figure that road would be painted with a special symbol indicating that driver-less cars can be used on it. Something certifying that it has clean and clearly painted lines, is on a maintenance routine to keep it usable, and that there aren't any blind corners. Maybe implement it as a QR-like code or something on the bottom of speed signs so that the vehicle would identify it, read its ID, download the appropriate information for that stretch of road. After it downloads the data, it'd do some processing to determine if it is capable of going autonomous safely. The vehicle will only go into automated mode when it has been determine that is safe to do so. A sort of positive control system.

      I figure the signs would be good for a certain length of road with 'refresh' marked mid-way through that zone. If the car misses the refresh marker, it'd have enough time to warn the driver and return to manual mode before the stretch ended (EG, the marker is good for 10 miles with a refresh marker at 7.5 miles, so a driver would have 2.5 miles to regain control and start driving manually).

      As for how it communicates, I figure that the manufacturers would be able to make the same deal that Amazon did to get free 3G service into its Kindle readers.

    3. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Appropriate

      A nice unclear term? It's a loophole that even the most inept Satnav could find its way through.

      1. Kiwi Silver badge
        Holmes

        Re: Appropriate

        A nice unclear term? It's a loophole that even the most inept Satnav could find its way through.

        Appears pretty straightforward... If an autonomous car is "at fault" in a crash, then clearly it was an inappropriate time for that car to be in autonomous mode!

        Can't be any clearer than that..

  9. Mad Mike

    Sounds rather flawed to me

    At first sight, this all sounds fine, but there seems to be some flaws.

    The idea that someone has to maintain their car (including software) properly is just extending the MOT process to include software and patching. Effectively, someone must be within the 'supported' range of software versions. As you can't guarantee everyone will update instantly, it can't just be latest.

    However, if the car when running in autonomous mode has an accident for which it is to blame, the insurance of the 'driver' (I know he's not driving at the time, but has given the car permission to drive itself) will carry the cost. At first sight, this is reasonable, but is it really?

    When you drive a car, it is under your control (supposedly) and is probably (in general) maintained or not by yourself, so if anything happens, it's because you made an error or failed to maintain it properly etc. So, your insurance pays. However, if your tyre blew out due to a manufacturing defect, the tyre manufacturer could well become liable if proven.

    Now take a car in automatic mode. You're running software you have no control over. You've made sure it's up to date etc. and done all you can, but the functioning of the software isn't something you can reasonably test or validate. When that car has a crash for which it is found liable, why should your insurance company (effectively you) pay? If the software has a bug in it (equivalent of a manufacturing defect), why should they not pay?

    1. Named coward

      Re: Sounds rather flawed to me

      If a tyre blows and you crash into another car another car your insurance should pay the damages. If they find out it was a manufacturer default they then go after the manufacturer to recover the costs. If they discover that the tyres were not well maintained they might go after you to recover the costs

      Replace tyre with software

    2. YARR

      Re: Sounds rather flawed to me

      The idea that someone has to maintain their car (including software) properly is just extending the MOT process to include software and patching.

      Wrong analogy. Software does not degrade through use like hardware. Network connected devices need software updates to guard against network-borne attacks. Non-networked devices only need software updates to fix bugs that affect their operation (or changes to their operating environment).

      If software updates are legally required for non-networked devices, that would be a legal admission that the old code was not fit for purpose - the software equivalent of a product recall. In this case, the software vendor would then become liable for past accidents involving vehicles that ran the old code. To avoid such liability, the software vendor cannot admit that the old code is unsafe, just less efficient or less functional.

      If vehicles had to run the latest code by law, your car would not allow you to start a journey until it had checked for updates. Also it would have to maintain constant network access while driving to stay up to date. The moment a bug is reported in the code, to avoid liability they would have to transmit a network message to halt all vehicles until a fix has been produced, and downloaded to your vehicle.

      To maximise road safety, computers must control the whole environment - i.e. human drivers, cyclists, and maybe pedestrians are prevented from using the road. To attain this they may use soft methods like artificially increased insurance premiums for human drivers, despite there being no inherent reason why human drivers should be more dangerous (write off more value + cause more injuries / fatalities) than than at present. A free market for insurers would keep premiums for human drivers comparable to what they are now.

      However when accidents occur between human drivers v self-driving vehicles, drivers will be in opposition with corporate lawyers so are more likely to lose legal cases. That said, corporate lawyers may deliberately accept liability at first to win public support, then turn up the pressure when there are few human drivers left on the road.

      1. Bill B

        Re: Sounds rather flawed to me

        Hold on a minute. "The old code was not fit for purpose?".

        Let's look at this way. The software in your car is updated so that a new feature "window wind half way down" is added. This does not mean that the old code is unfit. I can see a legal minefield here

  10. Joe Harrison Silver badge

    Meanwhile back in May 2000...

    http://www.zdnet.com/article/open-source-is-here-to-stay/

    "Would you buy a car with the hood welded shut?" - Bob Young, founder of Red Hat.

    He thought he was making a ludicrous analogy but it turned out he was making a prophecy.

    1. Lee D Silver badge

      Re: Meanwhile back in May 2000...

      To be honest, it's a stupid analogy.

      90% of drivers have probably never opened their bonnet (hood).

      Those that do, surely 90% of those are doing so to top up oil, water or other fluid. All of which could be from from a cap on the outside of the car.

      Hell, have you TRIED changing a lightbulb on a modern car yourself? It's nigh-on impossible without taking all kinds of stuff out.

      But the number of drivers who NEED to look under the hood is vanishingly small, and those that do could do all the ordinary stuff without needing to open it anyway. Why is it not just petrol, oil, water, washer fluid, brake fluid, clearly labelled, different size / colour / shape holes, locks on everything but the water, and a welded-shut bonnet? Everything further (servicing, etc.) you could quite easily dictate be done from under the car, which any garage can organise as part of their normal routines anyway.

      Most people do, effectively, buy cars with the hood welded shut and pretty much have since electronic ignition came in. It's also the same for software, which makes the analogy even worse. The reason is - if they have no understanding or need to tinker under there, it's safer not to give them access. What he was advocating was the antithesis of the least-privilege-principle, in effect.

    2. Ken Hagan Gold badge

      Re: Meanwhile back in May 2000...

      Even back in 2000, the engine management systems of new cars were so locked down that you had to go to an approved dealer to be able to diagnose (let alone fix) certain types of fault. He really needed to have been saying that 10 or 15 years earlier. *Then* it would have been funny.

  11. David Pearce

    Liability problems if a car maker closes down and nobody maintains the software anymore

    1. MrT

      SAAB...

      ... for example - plenty still on the roads, physically maintained etc.

      Now extend the 'out of business' idea to a car model deemed 'out of date' by the manufacturer - "Sorry mate, that's the Model 3. The latest software only applies to Model 3S or later". What then? Choose to have a fair chunk of the purchase disabled (the self-drive functions) as it is now uninsurable? Scrap the car?

      There would have to be a way of keeping or maintaining vehicles in those sort of situations, just like you can still maintain a Jag E-Type these days, 40 years after production finished...

  12. Ogi

    "unauthorised alterations" eh?

    Presumably disabling any tracking and/or recording systems in the car would count? Or over riding the default government approved "allowed routes" eh?

    Sure, that is not what will be the case now, but one day, in the future, when the ability of people to themselves direct where they want to go is fully taken away from them, I am sure the screws will start tightening. Nothing better than forbidding people from modifying and creating things themselves, they should just be perpetual "consumers", ideally on credit.

    I don't understand how some people can so willingly accept handcuffs, even if they are virtual. It is like they don't want any personal power, but have "someone else" take care of everything for them. At what point is someone else living your life for you exactly?

    I sure won't be using any such driverless technology for as long as I am capable of resisting. I don't mind sharing the roads with those who wish to be driven autonomously, but not at the expense of my ability to drive myself and control where I go.

    1. Toltec

      Re: "unauthorised alterations" eh?

      Who wants to bet that there will be a hack that makes the car think it is driving when in reality you are?

      As cars become more automated they will become something else in the same way that horseless carriages became something unlike a carriage without horses. What do you think, Pods, (trans)Porters, Autos? I like the latter as it emphasizes the auto in automobile as re-uses part of an obsolete name as the aforementioned horseless carriages became car.

      At some point obtaining a drivers license will be a preserve of the military, emergency services or the very rich.

      1. Ogi

        Re: "unauthorised alterations" eh?

        > Who wants to bet that there will be a hack that makes the car think it is driving when in reality you are?

        But that would be an "unauthorized modification", rendering your insurance void, and seeing as these cars would be essentially tracking systems on wheels, it will be very hard to hide that you hacked it. In the event of the crash, they may well notice the tacked on steering wheel and pedals :P

        > As cars become more automated they will become something else in the same way that horseless carriages became something unlike a carriage without horses. What do you think, Pods, (trans)Porters, Autos? I like the latter as it emphasizes the auto in automobile as re-uses part of an obsolete name as the aforementioned horseless carriages became car.

        People would probably not own them anymore. Why would you own a car when you can hail one like any old taxi, especially when you are forbidden from making any modifications to said car?

        I imagine integrated with something like Uber, where you click on an app button and a pod arrives to take you to where you want to go, charged by the mile/minute/whatever, and now because you have nothing to do in the pod, you can sit and watch adverts in-between some sort of entertainment. Of course to prevent vandalism or illegal activities, all pods will have internal cameras and microphones, for your protection of course (like you see on buses nowadays).

        Because it doesn't make sense to own them anymore, most of these things will probably be standardised, maybe have some sort of advertising on the outside so they are like mobile billboards. Essentially it would be the reduction of the car to the most utilitarian concept, a vehicle for getting from A to B. What it looks like, how it goes, etc.. becomes moot.

        > At some point obtaining a drivers license will be a preserve of the military, emergency services or the very rich.

        That reminds me of an Anime: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/%C3%89X-Driver

        The premise of still requiring people who can drive non autonomous cars is not unsound (just like we still need people who can shoe and ride horses), even if the storyline is a bit far fetched. Especially the military would not allow something so insecure and easily disabled to be used in wartime, if the enemy can just wipe out all your vehicles in one swoop with a hack/virus/emp.

        And cars were originally the preserve of the very rich, and it seems they try very hard to make it so again. The sudden liberty of the serfs to do what they want, move around how they like without higher oversight, and generally be free seems to have been just an aberration in social structure, most likely due to the Industrial (and cheap energy) revolution.

        It seems we are going back to the days when most people don't wander too far from their home village (except now it is more a really dense urban area), leaving most of the world as a playground for the very rich.

      2. 's water music Silver badge
        Terminator

        Re: "unauthorised alterations" eh?

        they will become something else in the same way that horseless carriages became something unlike a carriage without horses. What do you think, Pods, (trans)Porters, Autos?

        Duhh. Jonny Cabs obvs.

    2. 's water music Silver badge
      Trollface

      Re: "unauthorised alterations" eh?

      I don't understand how some people can so willingly accept handcuffs, even if they are virtual.

      It is simply a question of degree unless you are really arguing for a Malthusian bellum omnium contra omnes.

      Do I win a Godwin for that?

    3. Ken Hagan Gold badge

      Re: "unauthorised alterations" eh?

      "I don't understand how some people can so willingly accept handcuffs, even if they are virtual."

      Maybe they don't see them as handcuffs?

      I have a car to get from A to B. I couldn't give a stuff about how it does it as long as it does so safely and in a timely fashion. I'm "willing" to accept all sorts of "handcuffs" that make those decisions for me. In extremis, I'm even willing to get on a train whereupon I've abdicated pretty much all responsibility for any travel-related decisions and amazingly I don't feel in the least bit emasculated or enslaved when I do so.

      Now if the government starts saying I can't travel to B today I might be a bit miffed, but they can already do that by closing the road and it turns out that they aren't much interested in doing so. Driverless cars change nothing in this regard.

      1. Ogi

        Re: "unauthorised alterations" eh?

        > Maybe they don't see them as handcuffs?

        > I have a car to get from A to B. I couldn't give a stuff about how it does it as long as it does so safely and in a timely fashion. I'm "willing" to accept all sorts of "handcuffs" that make those decisions for me. In extremis, I'm even willing to get on a train whereupon I've abdicated pretty much all responsibility for any travel-related decisions and amazingly I don't feel in the least bit emasculated or enslaved when I do so.

        Fair enough, I guess. I have to admit I cannot understand that point of view at all. I might as well try to understand an Alien. It just seems so wrong in my head.

        However people are so varied that there is not a one size fits all policy. There are people who like their lives controlled and managed by others, and those that don't (and of course, an overlap between them). As long as one side does not coerce the other into their way of living, I don't see a problem with it. I am happy for you to use autonomous cars till the end of time, as long as you are happy to let me control my own car as I go about my business. Ditto for other such things as well.

        I didn't deal with the emasculation bit, because to be honest I don't see how much of a man you feel has anything to do with this.

        For me it is a matter of control. I guess if they developed an autonomous car that was fully under my control, open hardware/software, and not in some way connected to some net or grid, I would be more keen on them. Not as a replacement for my cars, but as an addition for those times I don't wish to drive.

        > Now if the government starts saying I can't travel to B today I might be a bit miffed, but they can already do that by closing the road and it turns out that they aren't much interested in doing so. Driverless cars change nothing in this regard.

        Except that you can decide to ignore the "road closed" sign and go there anyway. You can't do that with a car that is not under your control.

        You are at their mercy. Also, they may not be much interested in doing it now, but they may be more interested in future.

        1. Richard 12 Silver badge

          Re: "unauthorised alterations" eh?

          > Now if the government starts saying I can't travel to B today I might be a bit miffed, but they can already do that by closing the road and it turns out that they aren't much interested in doing so. Driverless cars change nothing in this regard.

          Except that you can decide to ignore the "road closed" sign and go there anyway. You can't do that with a car that is not under your control.

          Very poor argument.

          Right now a Government can only stop you going somewhere by paying a fairly large number of people to stop you. A police blockade for example - you can't decide to ignore that.

          In a driverless car future it may become technically cheaper to blockade a road by "virtually" closing it.

          The risk is that by making it cheaper, they do it more often.

          However it doesn't work anyway because of the motorbike.

          1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

            Re: "unauthorised alterations" eh?

            "However it doesn't work anyway because of the motorbike."

            You think you'll be allowed to use a motorbike in the age of the autonomous car?

  13. Cynical Shopper

    Expensive

    "In future, we might expect the market to evolve to a point where it is very expensive indeed for motorists to obtain insurance cover for vehicles that are not autonomous."

    Why? The number of non-autonomous accidents should reduce in line with non-autonomous motorists.

    In addition, "insurers would be free to exclude or limit liability", but this would be the same as is now for unauthorised modifications - there's a bit on your certificate of insurance that says that nothing in the policy prevents liability for third parties, so they'll still have to pay out, but try to recover the costs from their customer.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    We are living through the end of private motoring ...

    just that really.

    You't get to the future by taking a development in isolation, plonking it into an imagined version of the world <x> years hence where nothing else has changed and then pick it to pieces because - shock horror - it's not like today.

    As soon as cars become autonomous, the rationale for having one plonked on a drive doing stuff all for 20 hours out of 24 (say) starts to look a bit silly. Or, to put it another way: why own your own car, when you can summon one within 5/10/15/20 (you can bet that'll be a pricing point) minutes ?

    Does Ubers driverless interest start to make sense now ?

    Private transport - seen from 2117 - will be something history books mention. Much as ours mention horse-drawn carriages (and who owned their own one of those, 120 years ago ?????).

    Just another reason why a single penny on HS2 is wasted ... unless we see the rail network as long-haul with a mesh of autonomous (JonnyCabs) cars for short haul.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: We are living through the end of private motoring ...

      "As soon as cars become autonomous, the rationale for having one plonked on a drive doing stuff all for 20 hours out of 24 (say) starts to look a bit silly. Or, to put it another way: why own your own car, when you can summon one within 5/10/15/20 (you can bet that'll be a pricing point) minutes ?"

      Nonsense. Yet another regurgitation of the same tired old flawed argument that says we should all be using busses on the assumption that we all have the same use case.

      Those with this viewpoint almost always ignore the many use cases for the private vehicle - among which they're usually customised to our own tastes (even if only the settings on the radio), and loaded with many personal things we take with us on our journeys.

      Cars as public infrastructure will be used and abused the same way as all existing public facilities - chewing gum on the seats, having had people sick in them, defaced in various ways ... and thats before you even begin to consider the issue of availability in the case of urgent need and many others.

      1. Richard 12 Silver badge

        Re: We are living through the end of private motoring ...

        Availability in urgent need - well, ambulances seem to work.

        It is quite likely that the private car will eventually go the way of the private horse.

        They will change from an expensive but necessary thing into an even more expensive toy/hobby.

        This is a flawed analogy of course because most people didn't own horses, they walked or they hired a horse when they needed one.

        So perhaps the driverless car is in fact a faster horse?

      2. Kiwi Silver badge

        Re: We are living through the end of private motoring ...

        "As soon as cars become autonomous, the rationale for having one plonked on a drive doing stuff all for 20 hours out of 24 (say) starts to look a bit silly. Or, to put it another way: why own your own car, when you can summon one within 5/10/15/20 (you can bet that'll be a pricing point) minutes ?"

        Nonsense. Yet another regurgitation of the same tired old flawed argument that says we should all be using busses on the assumption that we all have the same use case.

        Quite logical really - and I am saying this as one who will probably still ride my motorbike when it becomes illegal to do so.

        I have used my car for 20 minutes today. I did not use it for the previous 2 days, nor will I likely use it again until Thursday afternoon at the earliest (48hrs at time of writing). I may use it Friday, and not likely to even look at it again before Sunday or Monday after that. But I still have to pay to keep it road legal, registered+warranted (which are time based, so even if have the car locked in a garage that somehow prevents any deterioration, I still have to pay those fees). If, on the other hand, there was a "service" where I could summon a car for around the same costs I pay to travel now, even if I have to wait a little bit so what?

        Where I currently live access to a car is fairly necessary for those not able to climb the hills, but I'm not at all averse to using it, in fact the only complaint is the wait times between runs. A more regular service would be great.

        And hey, if my car was autonomous, I'm sure I'd be happy to rent it out. Instead of sitting in the drive decaying, it could be on the roads decaying a lot faster but making me some $$$ in the process.

        Those with this viewpoint almost always ignore the many use cases for the private vehicle - among which they're usually customised to our own tastes (even if only the settings on the radio), and loaded with many personal things we take with us on our journeys.

        Lots of people these days carry personalised music collections in their pockets, ie their smart phones. They use their smartphone headphones. If you ever use public transport you'll see most people with a phone or tablet (even those reading deadtree material), headphones in, their choice of music or radio station or movie on. I know many people who've got BT-enabled car stereos that just continue with whatever they were listening to before they got into the car, and I know many who have not turned their car stereo on in some years. Your own argument forgets the great many people for whom this would not be a problem.

        I have a great stereo and speakers in my car, benefits of a mate who upgrades often. I don't always listen to it and would not miss it if it wasn't there.

        Cars as public infrastructure will be used and abused the same way as all existing public facilities - chewing gum on the seats, having had people sick in them, defaced in various ways ...

        Now that I can't argue with.

        and thats before you even begin to consider the issue of availability in the case of urgent need and many others.

        When was the last time you needed a car in an emergency? And if you did, did you drive? What makes you think you're so special that you could put other people's lives at risk with your dangerous driving? Yes, people driving "in an emergency" (short of professionals) have a tendency to be in a very upset and/or excited state, and thus are unfit to drive, plus may be trying to drive much faster than is prudent under the circumstances. I can't barely recall my last "emergecny", and am not sure I've every had such a need for a car. Yes I've had a couple of times when someone I love is very close to passing on, but better I drive careful and risk being late (better still get a ride with someone less emotionally attached) than have my family/friends lose two people in one day.

        For the vast majority of people, "an emergency" is one of the stupidest arguments for having a private care I can think of, and in most cases is probably a good argument that they should be banned from driving. Now in the sticks it's another matter, where an ambulance could be an hour or more away, but for most city dwellers it is an absolutely ridiculous argument.

    2. fruitoftheloon
      Happy

      @AC[s]: Re: We are living through the end of private motoring ...

      ACs,

      err no, it's a great idea (for a given set of n assumptions) if you live in a metropolis that has enough folk living on top of each other for the economics to hit critical mass.

      But completely f'ing useless here (little village in the middle of Devon), where many 'roads' are literally no bigger than footpaths...

      Horses for courses [pardon a terrible pun].

      And I'll be keeping my road-legal track day toy no matter what, but the option to have a family taxi that can drive me to wifeys folks, then mine, then home is a VERY ATTRACTIVE concept (1,100 mile round trip).

      Cheers,

      Jay.

      Jay

      1. EUbrainwashing

        Re: @AC[s]: We are living through the end of private motoring ...

        The UN Agenda is to move people out of rural locations and into urban conglomerations - private cars and country living will be for the very rich and a few bumpkins in smocks playing folk songs and brewing ale to make the place feel authentic

    3. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: We are living through the end of private motoring ...

      "As soon as cars become autonomous, the rationale for having one plonked on a drive doing stuff all for 20 hours out of 24 (say) starts to look a bit silly."

      It would look silly if the 4 hours when my car is being used are a different 4 hours than when your car is being used and both are different from the 4 hours when the car from the house across the road is being used etc. The reality is that all those 4 hour slots are largely overlapping, one car can't serve all three users, you still need three different cars.

      Or to put it another way, it's impractical for everyone to commute to work by cab irrespective of whether it's a black cab, minicab or Uber: there aren't enough cabs to go around during the rush hour and making them self-driving doesn't make a jot of difference.

      1. Kiwi Silver badge

        Re: We are living through the end of private motoring ...

        It would look silly if the 4 hours when my car is being used are a different 4 hours than when your car is being used and both are different from the 4 hours when the car from the house across the road is being used etc.

        There are places that are staggering their start/finish times, which would help in situations like this.

        How much acceptance such a practice will get, well that's another matter. Though it may not be long before western governments are mandating shorter working weeks to help take care of the increasing unemployment problem (cutting back on migrant numbers would help with that of course, but hey, let's not suggest silly stuff like that eh?)

    4. MrXavia

      Re: We are living through the end of private motoring ...

      "Why have your own car?"

      Same could be said about the fact you can hire a car dropped at your door or call a taxi....

      But hire cars smell, they are usually cheap nasty cars at bottom specs, and they are not as convenient.

      same can be said for taxis with the addition they cost a lot...

      I doubt driver-less cars will solve these problems.

      If you want to drive in something that is nice, you have to own it, or pay a small fortune to hire it.....

  15. Cynical Shopper

    Customer can't win

    So when your automated car crashes due to a software issue, you lose your no claims, and all drivers collectively pay through increased premiums. The insurance company would have no impetus to claim off the liable manufacturer since they won't be out of pocket.

    1. gnasher729 Silver badge

      Re: Customer can't win

      Cynical shopper, there's more than one car insurance company. They have very good reason to keep the premiums as low as possible because otherwise the customers move to another insurance company.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    User updates

    "or failed to update its software"

    ...and we know how reliable the general public are at updating the software on their laptops and PCs ...

    1. J.G.Harston Silver badge

      Re: User updates

      To me my car is a magic box on wheels. I leave its "updates" to the garage. It recently had it's tyres "updated" and a few years ago had its windscreen wipers "updated". None of which I'd do myself, that's "Car Technology's" job.

      Ok, I top up the windscreen wiper fluid, but that's putting paper in the printer.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    updates

    The end user should have nothing to do with updates. The car should check before starting and not move if there is an update but should install them then start the journey.

    It should be the responsibility of the manufacturer to ensure updates are installed, not your or my gran.

    1. Jason Bloomberg Silver badge

      Re: updates

      Expect to read stories in the tabloids about how a medic needed to get to an emergency but the car refused to budge until the download and installation completed.

      I am sure there will be some "if it runs Windows..." comments to follow.

    2. Jess--

      Re: updates

      I'd rather not wait while the car tries to download it's updates over the (1 bar if you hold the antenna in the right spot while waving in circles with your other hand) gprs connection that is available here.

      far better option would be to disable autonomous functions until it is updated.

    3. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: updates

      I am sure there will be some "if it runs Windows..." comments to follow.

      As in: You stop at the traffic lights, the car starts to run an update and won't move until the update's finished and it's rebooted three times. It then won't start because it no longer supports the brand of petrol you're using?

  18. A 15

    I don't think it's fair to expect users to update something safety critical like the software frequently. If software needs patching, this is comparable to a manufacturer recall. Automatic updates is a rather dangerous idea in the event that the security is compromised by hackers.

    I think there needs to be some clear policy on what users are expected to do to keep the software up to date. Something like requiring it is updated manually by engineers during its one or two year service seems reasonable.

    This would also make sure that cars are changed over gradually (in the event that somehow some malicious software did get on them).

  19. EUbrainwashing

    Ubair

    By the time a fully automated car is available very few people will have the desire to actually bother owning one just for their own use - too expensive, not much fun and rather unnecessary. You may own one, as an income generator, and sub-let it like a cross between letting your flat on AirBnB and being an Uber driver - with the knowledge you always have a set of wheels available to get you home not matter what. Otherwise you just pre-book your known usage long in advance and manage your auto-cab account via smart-phone applications. That is the model I foresee.

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Ubair

      "Otherwise you just pre-book your known usage long in advance"

      How far in advance do you have to book to get one at 8 am to get you to work when everyone in your street and the next street and all the streets around also want to book one within about 15 minutes of the same time?

      1. Kiwi Silver badge

        Re: Ubair

        How far in advance do you have to book to get one at 8 am to get you to work when everyone in your street and the next street and all the streets around also want to book one within about 15 minutes of the same time?

        Car pooling and staggered starts.

        Many people around here only drive their car down to the nearest railway station anyway. Why drive into Wellington with the peak hour road congestion and limited expensive parking, when a train takes you right there for less than the cost of the day's parking space? A healthy 15-20 minute walk gets to most places from the train stations, or you can take a bus on bad days/if you're lazy or if you're handicapped. In fact making people walk would benefit all sorts of health issues.

        Don't get me wrong, I love private transport and love my bikes, but other options have their benefits as well.

        And just think how much more enjoyable your drive in would be if you could convince your neighbours to share one or two cars, and enough other people did this. Think of a 1% reduction in cars on the road at the worst hours of the day - what a joy that would be when stuck in those moments to know there's so much less traffic!

  20. Alpc

    Will my driverless car stop in the fast lane when it decides it's time to install an update? ;) Windows 10 tends to decide to update itself precisely when I want to use my laptop. Will CarWindows 10 be the same?!

    1. J.G.Harston Silver badge

      Do you change your tyres in the fast lane of a motorway? No, you go to a garage and they do it. Automotous vehicle updates will be just the same as non-automotous vehicle updates - stuff done at MOTs or services by garage mechanics, or knowledgeable DIY enthusiasts.

  21. hairydog

    The owner?

    Everyone seems to be missing the core point here. Ths new legislation seems to be putting the liability onto the insurer and the owner of the vehicle.

    So what does "owner" mean in this context? If (as I suspect will happen) lots of these vehicles are leased, the owner is the lease company, not the person with day-to-day control of the vehicle.

    Clever as they may be, self-driving cars won't be able to check their tyres for damage or wear. They may or may not be able to decide that the weather is too bad to drive in. They will always be under some sort of human management, but probably not under the control of the person who is their legal owner.

    I see the advent of self-driving cars as heralding the end of 'owner-occupier' cars. They will be more car sharing schemes, or leasing by the hour. This "owner" issue will be a really big deal.

    1. Vic

      Re: The owner?

      Clever as they may be, self-driving cars won't be able to check their tyres for damage or wear

      Why not?

      A light[1] and a linescan camera in each wheelarch wouldn't be all that difficult. At 100mph you get a pixel resolution of about 16 thou using the camera technology I was using in 1992...

      Vic.

      [1] Possibly IR so as not to be visible to humans

  22. Kiwi Silver badge

    Updates and upgrades..

    On the one hand.. I applaud their making people financially responsible for keeping their stuff up to date.

    On the other hand... I can see grounds for holding off on an update - how often have OS patches given a new bug or opened up an undiscovered one and caused all sorts of weird behaviour? The testing regime would have to be exceptionally good before forcing someone to perform an update - given the history of bugs such an update could cause an accident (that said, hopefully car manufacturers wouldn't have to deal with the ranges of hardware that PCOS makers have to deal with - the stereo etc should under no circumstances be able to contact the guicance computer, except maybe as a source for navigation instructions (my stereo has bluetooth, and a mic built into the car, why have more than one?)

    I can also see privacy concerns with connecting the car to the net. I am sure that Ford would be able to be trusted NOT to ever sell people's driving data to advertisers, ever! Nor would Holden, or Suzuki, or Honda, or ... ever conceive of taking that multi-million+ cheque for handing over the data they've stored "just in case we need it sometime in the future", data which is "anonymised" yet would show where you live, work, shop, and who you visit... I'd have issues connecting them up to the net.

    Also, what happens when there's a significant time lag between an update being released and someone getting their car near enough to a source of connection? Lots of people live where their parking is on the street, and maybe far enough away that they cannot get any data connection close to the car.

    The tech is exciting but sometimes scary. The beuracracy however is going to be something beyond scary for a while I think, and the insurers will use every thing they can to get of paying.. "Oh, your headlamp was fitted by a fully qualified auto-electrician, the only one in your small town? No specialist Honda service agents for 200 miles? Well tough, that could've caused the accident (in broad daylight) so no money for you matey!". (And no doubt cases of "oh, your brake light was the wrong shade of red. That confused our clients car so you're at fault for not using our approved shade of tail lights!")

    Yes. Someone I knew many years back did have an insurance claim rejected by the at-fault party's insurer because he had fitted a higher wattage headlight bulb. The accident occurred during daylight hours when the lights were not in use, but the insurer tried to claim that they somehow caused the accident.

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