• AXA and Burges Salmon call for new standards to govern autonomous driving

    April 16th 2018. Posted in Corporate

    New standards for vehicles that can switch between autonomous and human driving will be vital in deciding who is liable for an accident during the ‘handover’ period, the latest VENTURER report from insurer AXA and law firm Burges Salmon has revealed.

    • AXA and independent UK law firm Burges Salmon release report on the ‘handover’ of control between a human driver and an autonomous driving system and potential Impact liability.
    • Trials show that drivers took around three seconds to retake control from the autonomous driving system at a speed of 20mph.
    • VENTURER is an Innovate UK-funded project investigating human factors relating to driverless vehicles.

    New standards for vehicles that can switch between autonomous and human driving will be vital in deciding who is liable for an accident during the ‘handover’ period, the latest VENTURER report from insurer AXA and law firm Burges Salmon has revealed.

    The Government's Automated and Electric Vehicles Bill will eventually create a list of vehicles that will be considered 'automated'1 , with liability to third parties falling on insurers. However, there will be many vehicles coming to market in the future which will allow the driver to 'handover' control to the vehicle and vice versa. This could create a grey area for liability, especially if an accident happens during the ‘handover’ between driver and vehicle.

    The current law expects the driver to be responsible for the vehicle at all times. This creates issues if there is a time lag in the driver regaining effective control after the vehicle has been driving autonomously.

    The report, the second in a series of three looking at insurance and legal aspects linked to the VENTURER trials, recommends that government and industry take account of the issues encountered by drivers during the handover phase. It calls for new standards that reflect the real-world capability of drivers and avoid stifling the development of automated vehicles by unfairly penalising motorists. Manufacturers will need to design in safety and develop handover processes that reflect the reality of drivers’ capabilities.

    VENTURER’s handover trials, looking at the return to ‘baseline’ driving across a range different indicators, highlighted the delays expected in regaining full control at different speeds, with drivers taking almost three seconds to do so at 20mph for example.

    David Williams, Technical Director, AXA UK commented:

    “AXA has supported the advent of driverless cars from the very beginning. It is exciting, through projects like VENTURER, to be at the forefront of a change that could have a profound, positive effect on society.

    "People must understand, however, what the vehicles are capable of and, very importantly, what the law allows us to do (or not do) when travelling in them. Handover presents a complication for the basic liability model: how can we apportion responsibility between human driver and the vehicle fairly?"

    Chris Jackson, Head of Transport at Burges Salmon, added:

    "Setting the boundaries of 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."

    The VENTURER project is now in its final year and the findings of the third legal and insurance report from AXA and Burges Salmon will reflect on the progress made over the past three years. Visit the AXA website to view the latest report in full.


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    The AXA Group is a worldwide leader in insurance and asset management, with 165,000 employees serving 105 million clients in 64 countries. In 2017, IFRS revenues amounted to Euro 98,5 billion and IFRS underlying earnings to Euro 6.0 billion. AXA had Euro 1,439 billion in assets under management as of December 31, 2017. In the UK & Ireland, AXA operates through a number of business units including: AXA Insurance, AXA PPP healthcare and AXA Ireland. AXA UK & Ireland employs around 10,000 staff. The AXA ordinary share is listed on compartment A of Euronext Paris under the ticker symbol CS (ISN FR 0000120628 – Bloomberg: CS FP – Reuters: AXAF.PA). AXA’s American Depository Share is also quoted on the OTC QX platform under the ticker symbol AXAHY. The AXA Group is included in the main international SRI indexes, such as Dow Jones Sustainability Index (DJSI) and FTSE4GOOD. It is a founding member of the UN Environment Programme’s Finance Initiative (UNEP FI) Principles for Sustainable Insurance and a signatory of the UN Principles for Responsible Investment.


    Burges Salmon LLP is consistently ranked amongst the UK’s most successful commercial law firms. Our national and international client base ranges from private individuals to government departments and FTSE 100 companies including The Crown Estate, Eurostar, the Discovery Channel, Lloyds Banking Group, The Co-operative Group, Babcock International Group and FirstGroup. With 88 partners and a total of more than 750 employees, the firm offers a cohesive, communicative environment which results in strong working relationships right across the firm and an enhanced service for our clients. The award-winning firm is widely recognised for the quality of its expertise in a range of areas, including corporate, commercial, litigation, real estate and tax & trusts.

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