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AXA calls for clarity on UK self-driving car laws before on-road revolution

New liability standards are needed before the driverless car revolution hits the UK in earnest, a joint report by insurance provider AXA and law firm Burges Salmon argues. 

While the UK government’s forthcoming Automated and Electric Vehicles Bill is expected to detail a list of vehicles considered to be autonomous, it will also declare that a human ‘driver’ is ultimately in control of a self-driving car – meaning insurers are liable for accidents.

The crux of the issue, according to the report, is the fact that the semi-autonomous cars set to hit UK streets will feature both computer and human driving modes.

A ‘handover’ period in which control is passed from the one to the other – a three second time lag in which neither man nor machine is deemed in control, for example – is currently unaccounted for in the forthcoming legislation and represents a legal grey area, it contends.

David Williams, technical director for AXA UK, said in a statement: “People must understand…what the vehicles are capable of and, very importantly, what the law allows us to do (or not do) when travelling with them. Handover presents a complication for the basic liability model: how can we apportion responsibility between the human driver and the vehicle fairly?”

“Setting the boundaries of the driver and autonomous system liability will require a detailed understanding of how users interact with technology. Defining the parameters of handover is an important step in delivering the driverless experience which people will expect,” added Chris Jackson, head of transport at Burges Salmon.

Related: Best dash cams

We’ve previously talked about the implications of driverless car deaths in some detail, and while excitement around autonomous vehicles continues to build, it seems the legal waters remain murkier than ever – something which eager consumers should consider before shelling out on a headline-grabbing new self-driving car.

Who do you think is responsible in the case of an accident involving a self-driving car? Tweet your thoughts to us @TrustedReviews.

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