Volvo has told the Australian government it is prepared to accept the full liability for damages or injuries caused whenever one of its cars is in full autonomous driving mode.

In a submission to a federal parliamentary inquiry into driverless vehicles, Kevin McCann managing director of Volvo Car Australia said uncertainty over where liability belongs for vehicles involved in accidents is regarded as one of the biggest barriers to adoption of driverless cars.

“Currently, Australian car manufacturers are not responsible for accidents involving human-driven vehicles. These accidents are mostly caused by driver behaviour, not by faulty technology, and so liability is rightly placed on drivers and their insurance companies,” McCann wrote.

“However, as control over vehicles is taken from drivers and transferred to autonomous technology, local manufacturers will have to assume more responsibility.”

Volvo is working with Uber to manufacture driverless cars for the ride-sharing service and a Volvo XC90 was used in the first ever Australian driverless car trial held in Adelaide in November 2015. McCann said the company is fine-tuning its autonomous driving technologies ahead of a commercial introduction in Australia around 2021.

Currently, Volvo’s policy is to accept responsibility for any accident which occurs when the whenever one of its cars is in full autonomous mode. And it believes that rule should apply to all automakers.

“Volvo believes the Australian government should mandate that all manufacturers who sell fully driverless cars in Australia must accept liability for cars involved in accidents that were in full autonomous mode at the time of the accident,” McCann said.

Volvo is so confident in its driver assist technology that it has set itself a target that by 2020 no one will be killed or seriously injured in a Volvo car.

Role of the Government

Volvo also wants the government to adopt uniform regulations for driverless vehicle trials, a lack of which will hamper future acceptance of self-driving cars in Australia.

“To avoid a piecemeal approach, we urge the federal government and its relevant agencies to take the lead on working closely with car makers to resolve controversial issues, such as questions over legal liability in the event that a self-driving car is involved in a crash, or remote hacking by a criminal third party,” McCann said.

“In the absence of a clear set of national rules, manufacturers like Volvo will be unable to conduct credible tests to develop cars that meet the different guidelines of each state and territory.”

Volvo will undertake a large-scale driverless car trial later this year in Sweden. Dubbed Drive Me, the project will involve up to 100 autonomous cars on the roads around Gothenburg, Sweden, driven by real people, in real traffic, in late 2017.

Endorsed by the Swedish Government, the pilot will involve self-driving cars using approximately 50 kilometres of selected roads in and around Gothenburg. These roads are typical commuter arteries and include motorway conditions and frequent queues.


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