If you live in Silicon Valley or Washington D.C. for that
matter you may have seen a car driving itself down the road. While an
autonomous car may seem futuristic they are the wave of the future, and much
closer to reality than most people imagine. While Google is the industry leader
at this point they are not the only company interested in computer driven cars.
When these cars become a reality, in addition to freeing up
your driving time they could have a big effect on your insurance premiums.
Driverless Cars are coming
Autonomous cars are coming; almost all automakers are
currently working on driverless or semi-driverless cars. Google is out in front
having logged over 200,000 miles on their fleet of Toyota Priuses. They have driven
them in the city, on the highway and even on tricky mountain roads, without a
single accident that could be blamed on the computer. Audi’s autonomous car navigated
itself up Pikes Peak.
While the transition to autonomous vehicles will be slow,
the very technology that drives these vehicles may already be in your car. Mercedes
and Audi recently unveiled Traffic Jam Assist, which adds automatic steering to
their adaptive cruise control. This lets the car drive itself at speeds up to
37 miles per hour. Cadillac is developing Super Cruise, a technology that allows
the car to deal with the gas, braking, and steering. Experts predict that we could see fully
autonomous vehicles on the road within 10 years.
What are the Benefits?
Safety is the number one benefit of these cars. In 2009
there were 10.8 million accidents which killed 35,900 people, 93 percent of
these accidents were caused by human error. Computers never drive drunk, they
don’t text and they can react faster than any human driver. Computers don’t get
tired and they have a 360-degree view of traffic.
While safety is a key benefit, there are others. Convenience
and traffic jams are just a couple worth mentioning. Autonomous cars can drive
at the exact same speed mere inches apart which would make a huge difference in
commute times. Convenience is another big factor. Imagine the time you could
save if your car dropped you off and then parked itself. When the car drives
itself you can read, text or simply enjoy the scenery.
Affects on Insurance
So what would happen if everyone were driving an autonomous
car? Experts predict that fatalities could fall from around 40,000 per year to
400. This kind of significant drop would have a game changing effect on car
insurance. Celent recently released a report entitled, A Scenario: The End of Auto
Insurance which looks at what might happen to car insurance rates in a world of
Donald Light, the author of the report suggests that by 2022
auto liability premiums could drop up to 80 percent from 2012 levels. A gradual
decline of rates would accelerate as collision avoidance systems combined with automated
traffic enforcement take effect around 2018, price drops would continue until
liability and collision premiums were a fraction of what they currently are.
In addition to insurance issues there are legal issues. In
most states driverless cars are illegal or fall into a gray area. Nevada
recently become the first state to specifically legalize and license autonomous
vehicles. Other states are following suit.
Once they are on the road other legal issues crop up. Who is
responsible when a computer glitch causes a collision? Most legal experts see
liability shifting from the car owner back to the vehicle manufacturer, but
this is uncharted legal water. As autonomous vehicles become more common both
insurance and legal issues will have to be ironed out.
Autonomous vehicles are coming and are closer than most
people would imagine. In just 10 years you could be reading, texting or working
as your car chauffeurs you wherever you need to go.