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CTP overhaul: ministers seek national fix for automated car cover

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Australia’s top transport ministers want compulsory third party (CTP) insurance schemes across Australia to be rejigged to fill a gap in cover for automated vehicles.

Members of the Transport and Infrastructure Council (TIC) agreed at a meeting in Adelaide to provide recommendations and engage with state and territory agencies that oversee motor accident injury insurance schemes.

“Council agreed to advocate that existing motor accident injury and insurance schemes be expanded to cover crashes caused by automated vehicles and that states and territories should review and amend their schemes,” the latest TIC communique says.

Participating TIC members include Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack, as well as the state and territory transport ministers.

Commentators say the legislation governing automated vehicles may not be in place before the vehicles are introduced, because the Federal Government-funded National Transport Commission (NTC), which is accountable to the TIC, is still taking submissions on driverless technology proposals and will not present its findings until next year.

Barry.Nilsson Lawyers principal Henry Silvester says early adopters of driverless vehicles could be left without insurance cover because of lagging legislation. He says determining the cause of a crash will become more complex with autonomous vehicles.

For example, if the software in an autonomous vehicle fails and causes a crash, that would cause a product liability claim, not a compulsory third party (CTP) claim.

The TIC council wants reviews of state and national CTP and national injury insurance schemes to identify any eligibility barriers to injured occupants of an automated vehicle, or people involved in a crash with one.

Each government should then amend its laws accordingly, in close consultation with each other and with relevant industries. The resulting reforms should be nationally consistent wherever possible, the TIC says.

It notes strong support from governments, insurers, manufacturers and other stakeholders for a consistent national approach to automated vehicles and related regulation.

The “Land Transport Technology Action Plan 2020-2023” - which underpins the national policy framework – will be developed through consultation with industry and academic partners before the end of this year.

The NTC will take recommendations to ministers by November next year on all key legislative elements required for a nationally consistent commercial deployment of automated vehicles in Australia.