a business model shifting from insuring the driver to product
liability insurance for the manufacturer, as the driver becomes
a passenger and the vehicle becomes the driver. If history is any
guide, automakers are not going to simply roll over, accepting
any and all liability. The purported liability model is further obfuscated by the fact that AV systems will likely have intervals
where the driver will assume control.
Assuming that liability can be easily shifted to the manufacturer
can create a liability trap for insurers. An automaker can only attest
to the reliability of vehicle systems at the time the vehicle rolled off
of the assembly line. Between that time and an incident alleging a
malfunction, there may be mitigating factors that a manufacturer
will seek to offset if not completely shift liability away from the
automaker. A repair shop or insurer that fails to provide allowances for necessary procedures following a crash, may be held liable
should a malfunction occur at some future point in time.
The belief that the burden of complete and proper repairs falls
solely on the repairer may be misguided. In the era of the direct
repair shop, lines have become sufficiently blurred as to who is responsible for the repair plan. Expect to see more requests for diagnostic scanning and procedures like calibration in shop-prepared
estimates. Allowance or denial of these requests can place an insurer in a position of acting responsibly or being culpable respectively.
Volvo and Mercedes have already indicated they would accept
liability in an AV crash. However, we have yet to see the fine print
which will likely include various liability limits and disclaimers.
In a 1994 report, “Tort Reform and Smart Highways,” D. Randall
Ayers opines on the subject of liability regarding Intelligent Ve-
hicle Highways Systems (IVHS) long before the technology was
introduced in production vehicles. “IVHS equipment manufac-
turers could also attempt to limit or avoid tort liability through
the use of liability disclaimers in the signed sales agreements.”
Post-crash diagnostic scanning and calibrations should be near
the top of the liability disclaimer list.
Although the AV liability model is unclear at present, it is
nonetheless imperative that insurers have a strategy to assess
and assure a vehicle’s electronic health in the aftermath of a
loss. Semi-autonomous is here with the conventional insurance
model still in place. A clean bill of health from a diagnostic scan
report may prove to be an effective tool to shoot down allegations
of negligence or bad faith.
The roadmap to successful repairs
With the evolution in vehicle design, today’s collision repairer
must adopt a more holistic approach to vehicle repair. Ergonomic engineering and space utilization have meant substantially
more components in far less space. Auto body shops have had
to increase their mechanical aptitude along with the size of their
tool chest. One such tool crossing over from mechanic to colli-
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