The UK has published the Automated and Electric Vehicles Bill. If an accident is caused by an automated vehicle when driving itself whilst insured at the time it causes anyone to suffer damages, then the insurer is liable for that damage caused to anyone. If the vehicle is not insured the owner of the vehicle is liable for the damage.

A vehicle is considered to be ‘driving itself’ if it is operating in a mode in which it is not being controlled, and does not need to be monitored, by an individual. If it is being monitored or controlled, ordinary principles of negligence will presumably apply. The proposed legislation also has a chapter on the recharging of electric vehicles.

If the accident or damage was to any extent caused by the injured party, the law of contributory negligence will be invoked. The Bill also deals with an accident resulting from unauthorised software alterations or failure to update software – cover may be excluded for that conduct. Insurers will be given a subrogated right to claim against the person responsible for the accident.

The time is fast approaching when we will need legislation in South Africa to cope with the difficult issues that arise with automated vehicles.