Carmakers will pick up your insurance bill for your self-driving car under proposed European laws that make the companies liable for any damage or injury cause.
The European Parliament has just voted to support a draft report which looks into the framework around who will be to blame if a self-driving car crashes.
The report makes an urgent call to the insurance industry to start imagining how it would deal with an autonomous car that goes rogue, damaging people or property, and advises carmakers to take out insurance on their robotic products just in case.
“The future legislative instrument should provide for the application as a rule of strict liability to damage caused by 'smart robots', requiring only proof of a causal link between the harmful behaviour of the robot and the damage suffered by the injured party,” the report says.
“An obligatory insurance scheme, which could be based on the obligation of the producer to take out insurance for the autonomous robots it produces, should be established.
“The insurance system should be supplemented by a fund in order to ensure that damages can be compensated for in cases where no insurance cover exists.”
It also calls for a “kill switch” that allows the driver to shut down the robot at any time, and separate registration for intelligent cars that can learn about the world around – and the people who sit inside – them.
And if your artificial intelligence-equipped car is considered smart enough, the EU wants to give it an almost human legal status, making it a sort of “electronic person” similar to how companies are treated under the legal system.
“We define robots as physical machines, equipped with sensors and interconnected so they can gather data,” the report’s author, Mady Delvaux, said.
“The next generation of robots will be more and more capable of learning by themselves. The most high-profile ones are self-driving cars, but they also include drones, industrial robots, care robots, entertainment robots, toys, robots in farming.”
Audi aims to be the first carmaker with a fully autonomous vehicle on the world’s roads. It showed the Audi Q7 deep learning concept, a “piloted driving” car, at this month’s Consumer Electronics Show in the US. The car’s newest artificial intelligence system has the nickname “Jack”.
“Artificial intelligence is a game-changing key technology for piloted driving – of this Audi is convinced,” the carmaker said.
The first application of Audi’s technology will be rolled out in an all-new Audi A8 due out this year. However, rather than build a fully autonomous vehicle, Audi is launching the A8 with what it calls “traffic jam pilot”, a half-step to what it claims is the first piloted driving function in series production.
It also trained a scaled down model car to use neural networks – similar to how the human brain works – to park itself without any human input using trial and error.
Audi says this system is the first step in a decade-long roll-out of “higher levels of automation in a growing number of driving situations”.