Would your insurance or the car maker pay if, while using the park assist, it messed up and hit one of the cars you're attempting to park between? – Bill and Evelyn in Bonnyville, Alta.
With the anticipated arrival of self-driving vehicles in the next decade, questions of accountability and responsibility do arise.
What happens from an insurance perspective if your car's automatic parking system fails and you collide with another vehicle?
"Right now, from an insurance perspective, the bottom line is that with all driving situations the driver is responsible for the operation of their vehicle," says Dave Minor, vice-president at TD Insurance.
"A good case to go by is cruise control, a driver-assisted technology that's been around for some time. Even though most cars now come equipped with cruise control, which people can use to assist in their driving and make their driving more comfortable or effective, at the same time the driver is still ultimately responsible for the car," says Minor.
"You are still accountable for the operation of the vehicle even if you're using some kind of technology assistance, and so you have to pay full attention at all times. Cruise control is a great example. If suddenly traffic is starting to slow down, obviously you have to either turn your cruise control off or tap your brakes, which will turn it off and slow you down, as opposed to just letting the car continue to travel at the same speed and banging into the car in front of you. It would be hard to explain to the police officer or judge that you saw traffic stopping in front of you but your cruise control was on and there was nothing you could do about it," says Minor.
Driver-override is provided with the automatic parking feature, as it is with cruise control and other driver-assisted technology. When the steering wheel or brake pedal is touched or the vehicle exceeds a certain speed, automatic parking will disengage.
"With driver-assisted parking, again it's the driver's responsibility to make sure that car is under control, and that they've got adequate space. If they were to get into an accident while using driver-assisted technology – which luckily would probably just be a fender-bender in that case – it's still going to be that driver's responsibility," says Minor.
We're all aware, however, that manufacturers can make mistakes. Recalls do occur from time to time. What if there was a defect in your vehicle? While proving the error may be difficult, as long as you have adequate insurance, your claim will be covered.
Alberta, like Ontario, operates under a no-fault system, meaning that regardless of fault, your insurance company will cover your claim.
"Nothing would preclude the manufacturer from jumping in and being able to make restitution not only to their client's vehicle, but the other party's vehicle," says Bryan Yetman, vice-president of operations for Pickering's First Durham Insurance and past president of the Insurance Brokers Association of Ontario. "But practically speaking, if that were to happen, you would still make a claim under your insurance policy. In an instance where there's a vehicle malfunction, I would counsel my customers you can feel confident that your insurance company would still pay the claim even if it's blatantly the fault of the manufacturer, provided you have collision coverage – that's the fine print."
Confirming the presence of a defect typically involves more than an isolated occurrence. In some cases, insurance companies play a role.
"If, within their database, they see a disproportionate number of claims from tires, rollovers, or slow-speed collisions occurring when people are stepping on their brakes or something, insurers will work with the manufacturers to uncover if in fact there is a defect or fault within their vehicles," says Pete Karageorgos of the Insurance Bureau of Canada.
With automatic parking – and all driver-assisted technology – you must be ready to step in if something goes wrong. Provided you have collision coverage, insurance will cover a claim whether it's the result of a manufacturing defect or driver error.