Who doesn’t love the idea of self-driving cars? Well, insurers for one, but also anyone that doesn’t enjoy the idea of their control being taken away. Let’s face it, humans love to be in control and it’s only recently that we’ve allowed technology into our lives to control things for us. Whether it’s machine learning on the new Google Pixel 2 phone or a smart home thermostat that controls the temperature for you, there are plenty of AI-infused devices nowadays that help make our lives far more automated than they were before.
However, with automation comes responsibility, and it’s one of the reasons why self-driving cars are becoming such a huge headache for insurance companies around the world because of one simple question: who is responsible when a self-driving car collides into another car?
Self-Driving Cars Are Already Crashing
Let’s not lie to ourselves and say that self-driving cars are completely safe. There have been plenty of reported cases where a self-driving car has been at the centre of a collision, some even being fatal. Whether it’s due to system failures, driver neglect or even external reasons depend on the situation itself, but it goes without saying that if you’re on the road, you’re susceptible to an accident.
Self-driving cars themselves are relatively safe. There are plenty of security systems in place that prevents the car from oversteering and drifting into other lanes, and it can detect both pedestrians and other vehicles. When used correctly, there is very little that could cause a self-driving car to malfunction. However, this is all controlled by a computer and, as we all know, any technological device is susceptible to faults, failures and abuse.
On May 7th, 2016, a crash was reported at around 4:40 PM eastern daylight time. On the US Highway 27A, a 2015 Tesla Model S collided with a large freightliner, passing under it and eventually crashing into a utility pole with the driver still inside of it. The driver died as a result, and a massive investigation took place to identify who was to blame for the driver’s death. It was eventually concluded that the Tesla Autopilot system was not the cause because the driver had enough time (7 seconds) to stop the vehicle and prevent the crash.
However, many people aren’t convinced that Tesla’s Autopilot system wasn’t to blame. Many say that Tesla should be able to detect nearby vehicles and brake in response to an emergency situation, and it doesn’t change the fact that it is giving insurance companies one of the biggest headaches of their lives. If you crashed your self-driving vehicle, then you would need to call an experience collision lawyer that has experience dealing with self-driving vehicles. Every self-driving vehicle records data for these purposes. It’s possible to see exactly what state a car was in and how the systems were functioning at the time of the crash, and lawyers will need to carefully analyse this data in order to build an accurate picture of what happened. This will help them determine who is to blame for an accident.
This ultimately makes the job of the injury lawyers an easier one, but what about insurance companies? How does this affect the cost of insurance for someone who owns a self-driving vehicle, and what effect does it have on other people on the road? Once the streets are filled with self-driving vehicles that are ultimately safer than regular vehicles, will we still be paying exorbitant amounts for insurance?
Self-Driving Cars and Insurance
First, we need to examine who is at fault when it comes to autonomous cars. Currently, most cars require some form of input in order for the vehicle to move. Whether it’s pushing down on the pedal or even just pushing a button, some user input is needed. However, there is a push for fully driverless cars that don’t require any user interaction. Currently, Tesla vehicles require some interaction now and then. For example, your hands need to be placed firmly on the wheel for the vehicle to even move. However, Tesla is also pushing for level 5 autonomy, which essentially means that no interaction is needed at all.
This gives you a full driverless experience. There is no need to remind the car you’re there and you don’t need to press any buttons. You simply input a destination and you’re off. Some car manufacturers are even pushing for vehicles that don’t come with steering wheels or pedals, and Ford plans to roll these out by 2021. When control is taken out of the user’s hands, the place we can point our fingers at for accidents and damage is the manufacturer.
Volvo has already mentioned that they will accept responsibility for any crash that involves their self-driving vehicle. This is a huge move that sets the standard for many self-driving cars. Yet, until data is collected from thousands of different situations, insurance companies are going to have an incredibly difficult time determining how much money they will charge for car insurance.
You see, insurance premiums are calculated by using statistics and mathematical calculations. These statistics are made from sets of data collected by real-world situations. For example, if it’s apparent that level 5 autonomous cars have an incredibly low chance of failure and aren’t in many crashes per year, then the insurance premiums for owners of an autonomous vehicle will drop as a result.
Until all of that data is made available, insurance for self-driving vehicles will fluctuate and change depending on many different factors. As the technology is slowly introduced into the mainstream and more self-driving vehicles are seen on the road, insurance prices will start to settle thanks to data collection. Until then, however, a number of different things could affect the price of insurance on a self-driving vehicle, and it could even affect other drivers. If providers prove to be inadequate in both pricing or coverage, then it may be up to the manufacturers to deliver the right insurance.