June 22, 2016
We all know the general ins and outs of car insurance. You make a driving mistake and cause damages to another driver or their vehicle and the liability is on you. Hopefully, you have enough of the right types of insurance to pay for the damages you have caused. However, once self-driving cars hit the roads, who is liable? Robert Peterson, Santa Clara University law professor believes that if an accident occurs while you are a passenger in an autonomous car, you will not be held liable. The car’s manufacturer or its software company would be responsible for any damages. This is quite different than the current workings of car insurance companies. While autonomous cars are all the buzz right now, they stand to create a legal nightmare for drivers, car insurance companies, courts, and many other people. If you are in a self-driving car that does require your attention in certain urgent or emergency situations and an accident is caused, you could be the one liable, not the car’s manufacturer or its software company. Potentially, you could even end up in a court battle to prove that the car was wrong, not your actions or inactions. The road to an America with self-driving cars seems to be paved with uncertainty as far as car insurance and fault are concerned. Everything about car insurance is predicted to change including who has to carry insurance, who is responsible for wrong-doings, and who owns the vehicle. The good news is that the autonomous car revolution is a gradual one, giving car makers and insurance carriers time to adjust to all of the expected changes. Currently, Google is track-testing fully autonomous cars that do not have brake pedals or a steering wheel. These are not yet legal on public roads. However, semi-autonomous vehicles are already gracing our roadways. For example, the Tesla with its autopilot mode and the Volvo brand with vehicles that have safe-distance and lane-keeping systems. Robert Passmore, assistant vice-president of the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America believes that the incremental developments in the driverless car era will initially cause insurance issues to become more complicated. Then later on as most human error related accidents become extinct, Passmore believes car insurance will become much simpler than it is now. Edward Cohen, vice-president of government and industry relations at Honda, reports that this will change the basic principles on which insurance policies are written. If drivers, or rather passengers of autonomous vehicles, are in a crashless world, the model for car insurance will need to be re-written. The good news is that the government, auto insurance carriers, as well as car makers and car owners, will have some time before all the kinks have to be ironed out. Fully autonomous vehicles are not expected to be on our roads until 2020 to 2050. Industry experts believe that we will see insurance premiums lowered as car accidents, injuries, and deaths become a rarity.