As insurers continue to ponder the possible impact of self-driving vehicles on the future of the industry, late in 2016, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) introduced 15 benchmarks automakers will need to meet before autonomous vehicles hit the road, and retained the states’ rights in regulating insurance.

The 116-page policy report, “Federal Automated Vehicles Policy: Accelerating the Next Revolution in Roadway Safety,” addresses what role the federal and state governments will play in regulating the emerging self-driving vehicle technology.

The policy sets a proactive approach to providing safety assurance and facilitating innovation. According to the new guidelines, the car manufacturers have to: 1) Demonstrate how their virtual drivers will function; 2) Show what happens if they fail and how they’ve been tested; 3) Make vehicle performance assessments public so regulators and other companies can evaluate them on an annual basis.

The federal government, it said, will set standards for equipment, including the computers that could potentially take over the driving function. It will also continue to investigate safety defect and enforce recalls.

Ford Motor Co. called the administration’s guidelines “thoughtful” and an attempt to ensure the U.S. continues to innovate. “Importantly, the guidance will help establish the basis for a national framework that enables the safe deployment of autonomous vehicles,” the company stated.

Under the new guidelines, the states retain their traditional responsibilities for vehicle licensing and registration; traffic laws and enforcement; and motor vehicle insurance and liability regimes.

DOT calls for each state to create “a jurisdictional automated safety technology committee,” which includes representatives from multiple state authorities, as well as other stakeholders, such as transportation research centers located in the state, the vehicle manufacturing industry, and groups representing pedestrians, bicyclists, consumers and other interested parties.

Here are the key highlights of the policy regarding insurance:

“States are responsible for determining liability rules for highly automated vehicles (HAVs). States should considerhow to allocate liability among HAV owners, operators, passengers, manufacturers, and others when a crash occurs. For example, if an HAV is determined to be at fault ina crash then who should be held liable? For insurance, states need to determine who (owner, operator, passenger, manufacturer, etc.) must carry motor vehicle insurance. Determination of who or what is the “driver” of an HAV in a given circumstance does not necessarily determine liability for crashes involving that HAV. For example, states may determine that in some circumstances liability for a crash involving a human driver of an HAV should be assigned to the manufacturer of the HAV.”

“Such rules could also have a substantial effect on the level and incidence of automobile liability insurance costs in jurisdictions in which HAVs operate. In order to make the transition from human-driven motor vehicles equipped with automated safety technologies to fully automated vehicles, gaps in current regulations should be identified and addressed by the states.”

“In the future, the states may identify additional liability issues and seek to develop consistent solutions. It may be desirable to create a commission to study liability and insurance issues and make recommendations to the states.”

Clearly, it is time for insurers across the U.S. to get involved in both the “jurisdictional automated safety technology committees,” and the commissions that will help individual states set liability and insurance guidelines.

The full policy and additional materials can be found at www.transportation.gov/AV.

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