How Self-Driving Cars Will Affect Insurance

The reality of self-driving cars is fast-approaching! But how will this reality affect car insurance? We take a look at the details.
Compare Guru
2017-01-30
The future of self-driving cars is officially upon us. And, it has a lot of people uneasy. But, what exactly will the implications of living in a 'self-drive' world be? Car Insurance Comparison(5)

Self-Driving Cars Explained

Innovations in motor vehicle design and technologies increasing safety have, thus far, done little to address the risk associated with the driver. Self-driving cars offer a solution to concerns around the difficulty involved in changing driver behaviour. Driverless or self-driving cars, like Google’s pilot project, have sensors which detect distant objects in all directions. Sophisticated software process multiple data points to help the car navigate safely. The car's sensors have a wide field of vision and the ability to predict and react to various stimuli. Self-driving cars also have the ability to learn how to navigate tricky situations without becoming tired or agitated.

The Pros And Cons Of Self-Driving Cars

Pros

  1. Since human error is at fault for the majority of all car accidents, one plus for self-driving cars would be the elimination of being distracted. Google's director of the self-driving car program, Chris Urmson, says the self-driving vehicle is, " more courteous and more defensive than normal drivers." Urmson doesn't believe that people are terrible drivers, but more so that they have a tendency, over time, to be, "...lulled into a sense of false confidence that makes a driver think that he or she is paying "enough" attention to get by".
  2. Drivers speed, become distracted by their surroundings, and periodically fail to follow road signs. Driver-less cars are attentive at all times and hypersensitive to their surroundings. 
  3. There is no risk of driving while drunk, tired, or under the influence of drugs. All major contributing factors to all car accidents. 
  4. Cost savings associated with time. Drivers can make better use of their time while commuting, which could save them money in the long run. Instead of waiting to get to work to call someone or finish a project, they can do it on the way to work or a meeting. 
  5. Self-driving cars, when in large numbers, participate in what is called, "platooning". This is, essentially, travelling in a pack. Not only does this significantly improve traffic conditions and congestion, it reduces commute times dramatically and helps drivers maximise on petrol usage.
  6. Self-driving cars also open up a remarkable new life to the disabled who do not have to rely on public transport or assistance from others anymore.
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Cons

  1. Weather conditions may affect sensors and lasers, which could have catastrophic results for drivers in self-driven cars.
  2. Teletrac, a GPS fleet tracking software company, says operating a self-driving car would require teaching the driver how to operate the system. While the vehicle is self-operational, drivers would still have to know how to operate it safely.
  3. The technology of self-driving cars would be of great interest to hackers, which would result in large numbers of theft.
  4. A self-driving car doesn't completely eliminate the likelihood of a car accident, nor does it have a legal precedent of how such a case would be handled. If a car accident were to occur, would it be the fault of the driver? The car manufacturer? Or the software developer for the self-driving vehicle? Read more about this in the section below.
  5. Self-driving cars can't interpret human signals, which would prove problematic if a traffic light had to fail. While drivers can predict the unpredictable, self-driving cars rely on predictability, systems, and, most importantly, algorithyms.
  6. GPS devices are not always accurate, which could result in a self-driving car turning into an "imaginary road" and causing a potentially fatal accident.

How Self-Driving Cars Will Affect Car Insurance

There is no denying that with extensive testing, self-driving cars have the potential to completely remove driver error as a factor in road safety. This is interesting for insurance claims and how they will be treated in the 'Jetson' future. When we are all getting into the backseats of vehicles, and being chauffeured around like a lord.  With cars hypersensitive to the world around them, there could be a dramatic improvement in the safety on our roads.  Forbes believes car insurers will have to focus on product innovation, customer relationships, claims processing, expense management in the future, instead of driver error. This is of course, keeping in mind not all drivers will assimilate to self-driving cars at once.

Premiums

The biggest stickler for insurance provider rivalry, the premium, will also undergo dramatic change. It will no longer be based on the frequency and severity of car accidents. Insurance against cyber-hacking, theft, and manufacturing faults will likely become more principal risk factors in the traditional car insurance model.
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Claims

As questioned earlier, who would be to blame in a car accident? Another aspect to consider is that although the frequency of car accidents may diminish, the severity of an accident will increase because of the costly technology used that would need to be replaced. The error would also lay on the shoulders of manufacturer, since the self-driven vehicle is devoid of human error in the event of a car accident.