Self-Driving Cars and Insurance

Jim Tice
Written on September 24, 2018

We’ve all read the predictions about self-driving vehicles becoming more and more common. Instead of driving ourselves, we will be relying on vehicles controlled by computers. 

Many newer cars are equipped with collision warning systems and automatic braking. As a result, data is showing a reduction in accidents. This may result in lower insurance costs when advances become widespread.

However, there are a lot of insurance ramifications that will need to be resolved.

  • When a self-driving car is at fault in an accident, who will be responsible for the damages?
  • Will laws need to be changed regarding the need to carry liability insurance if the owner isn’t held responsible?
  • If the manufacturers are determined to be at fault, will that be reflected in higher vehicle costs?
  • Since not all cars will be self-driving immediately, how will the inevitable conflicts that arise between human-driven vehicles and self-driven ones be resolved? (e.g. The human driver swears it was the self-driven one that ran a red light and caused their collision.)

Some of the scenarios you can imagine are actually a bit humorous.

  • The self-driving car is leaving an appropriate amount of space between it and the car ahead. A gap large enough for the rude drivers we all know to squeeze in. Knowing the self-driving car is programmed to slow to avoid a collision, the rude driver jumps into the space. The car will slow down to again allow an appropriate safety zone. The next rude driver will jump in and the self-driver slows again. It probably won’t be long until the human occupant takes over control so he can at least blast his horn. 
  • How long will a self-driven car sit at a busy four-way stop if all the other drivers know it will stop when they go ahead?

It will probably be many, many years before all these issues are resolved and self-driving cars have phased out the cars we know and love today.