Exploring the Social and Economic Impacts of a Common EU Approach to Liability Rules for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles

Google's self-driving car

Photo by Flickr user smoothgroover22/CC BY-SA 2.0

Background

The introduction of fully autonomous vehicles (also known as driverless vehicles) could provide substantial social and economic impacts across the EU member states, in areas including road safety, congestion, access to mobility, emissions and land use. Moreover, according to the European Automobile Manufacturers Association, there are 2.2 million people directly employed in automotive manufacturing in Europe and a further 5.1 million jobs depend on related sectors.

With the EU member states accounting for 21 per cent of global passenger car production and almost 75 per cent of inland freight transported by road in Europe, the deployment of connected and autonomous vehicles is likely to have a significant impact on the European economy.

Goals

The objective of the research was to provide an evidence-based quantitative assessment of the possible added social and economic value that would arise from the development of further EU rules on liability and insurance related to deployment of connected and autonomous vehicles. This includes the EU’s Product Liability Directive (PLD), which sets rules for the liability of producers and rights of consumers.

The study explored the potential impacts on car manufacturers, the insurance industry, connected industries and markets, and those who provide public provision of services and supervise compliance.

This research was commissioned by the European Parliament Research Service's European Added Value Unit to support the European Added Value Assessment of the European Parliament.

Methodology

The project team used a variety of methods to conduct the study, including a literature review, structured interviews with individuals from key industries, an economic analysis, and an internal workshop to discuss policy options.

Findings

  • The majority of stakeholders felt that the existing EU rules on liability and insurance were appropriate for connected and autonomous vehicles, particularly if existing legislation and international treaties were interpreted in an open-minded way. Many felt that it was simply too early in the innovation process of connected and autonomous vehicles to introduce new rules.
  • Many feared that pre-emptive EU rules on liability and insurance could have a detrimental impact on the development of connected and autonomous vehicles, with new rules either discouraging innovation and product development or forcing manufacturers to quickly develop products that are not ready for market. Both could have a negative impact on the future roll-out of connected and autonomous vehicles.
  • The quantitative analysis revealed that even if amendments to existing rules were able to bring forward or speed up the roll-out of autonomous vehicles, the likely social and economic benefits to society would be relatively small, so would not justify any changes.
  • It was widely agreed that there are areas around the use of connected and autonomous vehicles that could require further rules on liability and insurance in the future. One example is whether the individuals or the manufacturers of the autonomous vehicles would be charged with criminal negligence in the event of an accident involving an autonomous vehicle.

Recommendations

  • There should be no amendment to EU’s PLD around autonomous vehicles at this time.
  • The EU’s PLD needs to work alongside other member state regimes to ensure timely compensation for road accident victims.
  • New risks, such as cyber-attacks and hacking, will need to be taken into account in the assessment of liability in the future.
  • A number of areas around intervention would be useful to improve the liability around autonomous vehicles in the future. This includes:
    1. Setting vehicle standards more generally; and
    2. Access to accident and driving data to enable accurate and timely liability judgements, including data standards, sharing, and storage as well as data privacy and protection. Such access may be required by manufacturers, insurers, public authorities and travellers themselves.