Self-driving cars are getting closer to becoming a reality on Japan’s streets as its motor insurers prepare to cover collisions between these vehicles and pedestrians similar to regular driven vehicles.
Major Japanese insurers such as Tokio Marine & Nichido Fire Insurance, Sompo Japan Nipponkoa Insurance, Mitsui Sumitomo Insurance and Aioi Nissay Dowa Insurance are open to covering self-driving vehicles under their optional motor policies, Nikkei reported.
These optional policies come into play when a vehicle owner’s mandatory insurance is insufficient to compensate accident victims and their families, the report said. The optional policies also cover property damage caused by self-driving vehicles – which mandatory insurance does not cover.
The collisions being referred to are those involving “level three” vehicles, in which a human only takes control of the vehicle during emergencies. The highest automation level is classified at level five.
Level three vehicles are expected to arrive at the Japanese market within the next decade. In response, the government has to have necessary regulations in place by 2025, having determined that the owner of a self-driving car would be the one to bear civil responsibility for collisions.
Insurers have begun working to “create an environment where, even in the case of accidents involving automated cars, mandatory and optional insurance plans put relief for victims first,” Toshifumi Kitazawa, president of Tokio Marine Holdings, was quoted as saying by Nikkei.
However, more hurdles remain for self-driving cars, as Japanese law assumes that vehicles are operated by humans at all times, which contradicts the nature of autonomous vehicles. Auto industry and government bodies have yet to determine safety standards for self-driving cars, and the question of how to assign criminal (as opposed to civil) liability still exists.
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