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Not only do trucking companies that purchase the vehicles have to be insured for motor vehicle accidents, but they will also need to be insured for product liability claims. It also means that the manufacturer of the technology, the distributor or retailer of the vehicles and the software designers all will need to be prepared for lawsuits if an accident occurs. (Credit: ZinetroN/Shutterstock.com) Not only do trucking companies that purchase the vehicles have to be insured for motor vehicle accidents, but they will also need to be insured for product liability claims. It also means that the manufacturer of the technology, the distributor or retailer of the vehicles and the software designers all will need to be prepared for lawsuits if an accident occurs. (Credit: ZinetroN/Shutterstock.com)

The world of transportation, like everything, continues moving forward. You’ve read about the insurance risks for self-driving cars. Are the insurance risks different for autonomous trucking vehicles?  As these new and evolving vehicles continue to push the boundaries of what the transportation industry looks like, what will that mean for the laws that govern our operation of motor vehicles? 

Legislative bodies, insurers, customers and companies will need to be aware of changes that will likely occur. These will include what an insurance policy provides coverage for and what it does not. Legislative bodies will need to redefine various terms, such as “operation” and “driver”.  They will need to take into consideration that a fully autonomous vehicle is not a driver or operator in the current sense and legislatures will need to decide who will be held liable if an accident occurs. The courts will then need to interpret those changes as issues of first impression and decide how they will be applied.  

State Trends

For example, New York State Vehicle and Traffic Law Section 125 defines a motor vehicle as “[e]very vehicle operated or driven upon a public highway which is propelled by any power other than muscular power. Interestingly, a review of definitions listed within the New York State Vehicle and Traffic law does not include the term “operation.” It does, however, contain the definition of “driver.” Section 113 defines a driver as every person who operates, drives or is in actual physical control of a vehicle. 

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