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Personal Injury

Privacy concerns abound surrounding automated vehicle insurance

Consumers should be turning their minds to the privacy implications of insurance policies for automated vehicles, Toronto personal injury lawyer Jennifer Hoffman tells AdvocateDaily.com.

Although progress on driverless cars remains slow and steady — even the most ambitious predictions estimate just half of the vehicles on the road will be automated by 2040 — says Hoffman, founder of Hoffman Law P.C., now is as good a time as any to consider the potential pitfalls of developments, particularly in the realm of privacy.

“This technology is coming. It may not be here tomorrow or even in five years, but there are issues we must start addressing now,” she says. “The law takes a long time to catch up, so it’s better to start having a thorough discussion about how we are going to get safeguards in place to protect ourselves and our private information before we have these vehicles on the road.”

For that reason, she welcomes some recommendations from a recent report on the issue by the Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC).

“It’s good that they’re starting to think about how we will implement the necessary changes to our insurance regime to ensure that people are properly protected in the case of an accident,” Hoffman says.

After hearing from a panel of industry experts, the IBC’s proposed framework for automated vehicle insurance contains three key components:

  • A single insurance policy that covers both driver negligence and automated technology, so that injured people receive compensation regardless of which was at fault

  • After making payment to the injured party, the insurer can seek to recover against the manufacturer or technology provider

  • A data-sharing arrangement between vehicle manufacturers, owners and insurers to help determine the cause of a collision, its mode of operation at the time of the crash, and any interaction between the operator and the automated technology.

Hoffman says the idea of a single insurance policy that covers both driver negligence and technology faults, such as those caused by cybersecurity breaches, is good news for injured people since it allows them to avoid the time and expense of mounting a complex product liability claim against manufacturers or technology providers, which often take many more years to litigate compared to personal injury claims.

“The idea is to have policies that cover as many different scenarios leading to an accident as possible, so that injury victims can seek recovery from an owner, in much the same way they do today,” she says.

However, Hoffman is less enthusiastic about the third data-sharing component, which she says raises significant privacy concerns, especially in light of recent security breaches involving major companies.

“At first glance, it sounds great, because it can help determine liability and how the accident occurred,” Hoffman says. “But what is concerning is the sheer volume of information it would put in the hands of manufacturers and insurance companies.

"They will be collecting some of your most private and intimate information, including your identification data, and roadmaps of what you do and where you go in your day-to-day life. Technology is changing at such a fast rate, and our privacy laws are not up to date.

"We need to know much more about how this information will be collected, where it will be stored, and who will have access to it,” Hoffman adds. 

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