Volvo is latest manufacturer to accept liability for autonomous vehicles

Published: October 10, 2015

Updated: July 24, 2018

Author: Luke Jones



It has been recently suggested that the rise of autonomous vehicles will change the auto insurance industry forever, with many experts saying manufacturers may have to take liability in the event of an accident.

One of the leading car manufacturers has now taken the lead on this matter and is urging other companies to follow its lead. Swedish car maker Volvo made a commitment this week to take “full liability” for all of its autonomous vehicles in the future. After making that announcement, the company’s president Håkan Samuelsson urged rival manufacturers to follow suit.

Samuelsson was speaking in Washington DC when he threw the gauntlet down for other autonomous vehicle manufacturers, going as far as suggesting they should leave the business if not willing to accept liability.

"We are the suppliers of this technology and we are liable for everything the car is doing in autonomous mode," he said Thursday during an appearance in Washington DC. "If you are not ready to make such a statement, you shouldn't try to develop an autonomous system."

Some manufacturers of autonomous vehicles have already made similar pledges, including web giant Google and German automobile juggernaut Mercedes-Benz. However, with just about every major auto company involved in this technology, there is still some way to go before all take responsibility in the event of an accident. There is a precedent being set though, and industry heavyweights already committing to accepting liability will pressure other companies to also do so.

Last month car insurance industry experts said that the advent of driverless cars will bring seismic changes to the auto insurance industry, and providers will have to change the way they offer policies, maybe even going to car manufacturers and not consumers.

"Although accident rates will theoretically fall, new risks will come with autonomous vehicles," said Domenico Savarese, group head of Proposition Development and Telematics at Zurich Insurance.

"What should be done in the case of a faulty software algorithm? Should manufacturers be required to monitor vehicles post-sale in the case of a malfunction or a hacker attack?" Savarese asked.

While the technology is still in development, it is widely believed that the first self-operated vehicles will be available by 2017, while fully autonomous cars should hit the roads between 2020 and 2025.