Many people have heard of the March 2018 crash of an autonomous Uber test car in Tempe, Arizona; which took the life of a pedestrian. This crash and other safety and legal issues halted Uber’s plans to implement a driverless fleet.
Whether they’re called autonomous cars, self-driving cars, or driverless cars, automation is on its way to our roads and will make big changes behind the wheel. Function-specific automation is already here in the form of automated features that help drivers to drive safely. Car insurance is currently based primarily on driver responsibility. When cars can drive themselves, the cost of car insurance is certain to change as well as the problems it will be expected to cover.
With driverless cars will there still be a need for auto insurance?
Yes, auto insurance will still be needed, but insurance companies could lower premiums by as much as 50 percent by 2030 according to some predictions. The reason? Driverless cars are likely to improve safety and reduce crashes. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) reported that as early as 2013, front crash prevention auto braking features on newer cars reduced rear-end crashes by about 40 percent.
Some insurance companies already offer reduced premiums for drivers with cars that include accident-prevention technology like automatic braking. If auto braking and similar safety features continue to demonstrate they can reduce accidents, other insurers may reduce premiums as well.
Liability coverage for drivers is complex and highly-regulated by state insurance commissions. Just as ride-sharing services have changed insurance policies in recent years, driverless cars are certain to change insurance liability policies. Some things will stay the same. Comprehensive coverage, the part of insurance that pays for damage that doesn’t occur while driving, like vandalism or fallen tree branches, will continue.
Where are we now with driverless cars?
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) identifies five safety eras in automotive technology. Between 2010 and 2016, automakers introduced advanced driver assistance features including automatic emergency braking, but the NHTSA classifies these features as driver assistance, not automation. Drivers are still in control with these tech features. In 2017, we entered NHTSA’s third era of partial automation with the majority of new cars offering partially automated safety features including lane keeping assist, adaptive cruise control, and self-parking. By 2025, partially autonomous safety features could be included in every car.
Right now there are no fully autonomous self-driving cars that consumers can buy. Manufacturers continue road tests and development for different purposes. In January 2019, DoorDash and General Motors teamed to test self-driving Chevy Volts for food delivery to selected DoorDash customers.
Experts predict that changes in who drives the car and how much driver interaction will occur will be gradual. Business analysts KPMG predict that completely driverless cars will be available to the public between 2025 and 2035. Harvard Business Review projects that vehicles with high automation and full automation — fully driverless cars — will be offered by 2040 or 2050. By 2050, HBR predicts that autonomous and semi-autonomous cars and trucks will outnumber traditionally driven cars on the road.
How will auto insurance coverage change with the rise of driverless cars?
Drivers who currently have cars with driver-assist and semi-autonomous features may be eligible for reduced premiums from some insurance carriers. As accidents become less common, further reductions in premiums are likely by 2026, with some experts predicting as much as a 50 percent reduction in insurance costs.
According to the NHTSA, 94 percent of accidents are due to drivers and only 2 percent can be attributed to vehicle failure or the environment. Driverless cars not only improve safety, but they are also likely to shift responsibility to car makers or the manufacturers of components that support autonomous car tech.
New areas of insurance coverage are likely to include cybersecurity, providing coverage against hackers and cyberthieves, which could interfere with driving systems. Other areas of insurance coverage will include liability for problems resulting from new information systems and equipment involved in operating driverless cars. Infrastructure coverage is a third potential change, intended to pay for problems related to the safeguards and cloud-based security systems needed to control driverless vehicles.
It’s easy to imagine a world where autonomous cars could make safety problems like distracted driving, fender-benders, or parking mishaps a distant memory. Your car could qualify for an insurance discount through technology and other factors, so why not investigate auto insurance quotes from Protect My Car today?