Consumers will take auto insurance liability when using semi-autonomous vehicles

Published: August 2, 2016

Updated: July 24, 2018

Author: Luke Jones



Car manufacturers will not accept liability for accidents caused by semi-autonomous vehicles. That’s the view of Borden Ladner Gervais, which says automakers will only take the insurance hit once cars become fully autonomous.

One of the most interesting aspects of the autonomous vehicle rise is who will be liable to insurance companies. If the car is doing the driving, then it and the manufacturer would be at fault. Most carmakers have agreed that this should be the case. However, that legal loophole will only exists once driverless vehicles need no human input.

The first autonomous vehicles to hit the showrooms in the comings months will only be semi-autonomous, with drivers still taking control if they wish. Full autonomy is not expected for at least five years, and it could take longer.

In the meantime, Borden Ladner Gervais says consumers will still accept the liability in the event of a collision. Canada’s largest law firm issued a brief confirming the situation.

 “As long as a driver with some ability to assume or resume control of the vehicle is present, there would seem to be a continuing basis for driver negligence and liability as they presently exist,” said the report entitled Autonomous Vehicles, Revolutionizing Our World, published this week on the firm’s website.

 “With regards to driver liability, common law, coupled with the current legislation, may be sufficient to address liability involving all levels of autonomous vehicles, short of fully autonomous vehicles which do not require any level of human control,” LaRoche wrote.

“For fully autonomous vehicles, it would seem that legislative amendments would be required to clarify whether the owner would be vicariously liable and under what circumstances.”

Ontario has been allowing autonomous vehicle testing since January, but so far no manufacturers have stepped forward and applied. The 10-year program will coincide with a generation of motorists who will use the first autonomous vehicles. Insurance has always been a sticky subject, but it seems consumers will have to wait several years at least before they can shed their liability.