Automated Vehicle Technology & Future Road Traffic Accident Claims

In her latest blog, Personal Injury Solicitor Natasha Layton, discusses new vehicle technology, driverless cars and who is to blame should there be a road traffic accident….

The law currently allows us to make calls on a hands-free phone when driving if it is fully set up and the driver is not distracted by using a mobile phone.

What if you could drive your car hands-free so that you would be able to physically hold your mobile phone, make calls, send messages and emails while your car drove itself, allowing you to be distracted?

New Automated Vehicle Technology

In the last few months, the Government launched a consultation on new technology which involves hands-free driving.
The technology known as ALKS (automated lane keeping system) allows the driver to give all control to ALKS technology to steer the car and keep it in the lane without any input or control from the driver.

The technology has been approved by the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) and the UK motoring industry claims that this automated technology could cut accidents and make roads safer. This is because technology can react quicker than a human to an imminent collision and therefore should save lives. It would also help when the driver is tired or distracted.

There already exists similar technology in some high-performance modern cars with autopilot or pilot assist functions which essentially drive the car for you but legally the driver must still be alert and ready to take control of the vehicle instantly, and must always have their hands on the steering wheel.

The new technology system calls for additional changes in the law allowing the driver to take their hands off the steering wheel completely, meaning that the driver would not have to remain alert at all times and could do other things such as make phone calls, check emails, and even watch TV, until the driver is prompted to take back the control of the vehicle again.

What Happens If The Technology Is Approved In The UK?

If the technology is approved in the UK, it means that UK drivers could start using ALKS enabled vehicles for speeds of up to 70mph. Although, initially this would only be permitted on the motorways, as statistically they are the UK’s safest roads, with few hazards such as pedestrians and cyclists. The technology would control the vehicle along a straight line, with few changes of speed, and with no tricky manoeuvres at roundabouts or traffic lights.

It begs the question, whether the technology would be able to cope on busy city roads presenting those exact hazards.

Personally, I am yet to be convinced on being driven by my car at 70 Mph in the slow lane of the motorway with no input from me what-so ever. Would I be comfortable to let my car do the driving while I check my work emails, call my friends and watch an episode of Strictly Come Dancing?

I already drive a car with some degree of automation, allowing me to put my car in cruise control mode so that I can let it drive along the motorway at a consistent speed. I also have a park assist option where I can let technology take full control of parking my car. Although it would seem this would take away the stress of parking my car in tight and narrow spaces, I cannot say that I ever use this feature as giving away full control to my car to steer and apply the brakes when necessary makes me very nervous.

Issues Of Reliability, Driver Confidence & Liability

As well as the concerns around the reliability of the technology and the driver’s confidence in the technology, the new law also raises the issues of liability and collisions involving ALKS-enabled vehicles.

If ALKS enabled cars are classed as automated, it seems that the technology provider rather than the driver would be responsible for safety while the system is engaged. It would appear then that the technology would also be responsible for any collisions while the system is engaged.

The Association for British Insurers (ABI) have suggested that it would be unfair to hold the driver liable if they could not have prevented the accident. Would ALKS enabled vehicles be insured in the same way any driver is insured now but with an addition to allowing them to use the ‘automated’ mode?

If you were unfortunate enough to be a victim of an accident either as another driver, cyclist or pedestrian, with an ALKS enabled vehicle, who would be the responsible party and who would you make a claim against; the driver, the vehicle owner, the insurance company, the software provider or the vehicle manufacturer?

Could the driver argue that the car misread the situation in the collision? What if it was in that transition mode of handing back the control to the driver, who takes responsibility then? Will the insurers readily be willing to pay out or will establishing liability become an even more of a complex subject?

Road Traffic Accident Claims

If you are unfortunate enough to be involved in a road traffic accident, Timms are here to help. If you require expert advice from our experienced Personal Injury solicitor then please call us on 0800 011 6666 or email us at


Natasha Layton
September 2020

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