In a recent blog post, the current status of autonomous vehicles, which are also known as self-driving vehicles, in the USA, Canada and British Columbia was discussed.
While the technology for autonomous vehicles has been well developed in North America, in order for them to be legal to drive, several steps need to be taken.
In terms of obtaining automobile insurance for autonomous vehicles, there must be legislation (law) put into place which sets out rules relating to the purchase and sale of autonomous vehicles, as well as rules governing the driving of autonomous vehicles on the roads.
At the present time, while Canada has had some impressive results in terms of autonomous vehicle technology, we are unfortunately lagging behind the USA in terms of introducing the necessary legislation. In fact, the US government has taken active steps to introduce legislation to support the development and the safe use of autonomous vehicle. In fact, it appears that the US senate committee unanimously recommended passage of an autonomous vehicle bill, which is now pending on the Senate floor.
In considering the advancements Canada has made with technology, it is peculiar why we have not taken active steps to produce legislation to govern same. At the time of this blog post Canada, nor any of its provinces, has produced comprehensive legislation to govern autonomous vehicles.
Insurance and comprehensive legislation are imperative to handle a situation where an autonomous vehicle is responsible for a motor vehicle accident. The first fatality in North America occurred in March 2018 in Arizona where a pedestrian was sadly killed by an autonomous vehicle operated by Uber (and with an emergency Uber backup driver sitting passenger). Not only did this sad incident bring to the forefront where autonomous technology stands and ongoing problems with it, but it also started the discussion over how to deal with allocating fault where an autonomous vehicle has caused injury or death in an accident.
At this point in time, we do not have a clear sense of how a wrongful death claim and how a motor vehicle accident claim would be dealt with because the law has not yet been established. Questions that need to be addressed by a new law for autonomous vehicles include:
Who is at fault for an accident caused by an autonomous vehicle? Is it the manufacturer of the autonomous vehicle, is it the computer/software manufacturer or is it the driver who was sitting in the driver who was sitting in the driver’s seat, but not driving? Would they all be liable?
There would be several different insurance companies involved in terms of providing insurance coverage to the operator of the vehicle, the manufacturer of the vehicle and the computer/software manufacturer Which insurance company would be responsible for paying compensation?
Where do be go from here?
It is unfortunate that Canada appears to be behind the US in many ways and especially in terms of establishing law for new and innovative ideas and advancements. Consumers in BC have already endured difficulties with respect to the implementation of ride sharing which has lagged significantly behind our US counterparts who have been enjoying ride sharing for years. Canada is well behind our sister nation in passing the necessary and proper Cannabis laws/by-laws and the installment of Cannabis sales. Where we are in terms of autonomous vehicles is consistent with where we are on these other matters in that we continue to be behind the current advancements in passing the necessary laws.
Elon Musk, the founder of Tesla, has already proclaimed that autonomous vehicles are the way of the future (at Tesla’s Autonomy Day). In fact, a journal article suggests that the AV industry will reach $230 Billion by 2030, just 10 years from today. Canada and its provinces need to start working at a faster pace with the legal community and insurance companies to take more advanced steps forward, as Musk suggests, otherwise we will be left behind, literally.