Insurance for self-driving cars... a complex question
The virtual inevitability that self-driving cars will be on our roads one day, leads to the question of insurance. One British company, Adrian Flux has launched a personal driverless car insurance policy, possibly the first in the world, but currently (of course) only covering those aspects of self-driving which are available at the moment – such as self-parking.
The question of what future insurance policies will look like is currently theoretical, as self-driving cars are not legal on our roads yet.
Experts have been considering this, however, and one factor which arises from their thoughts is that the burden of responsibility in the case of an accident may be on the manufacturer to prove it was not responsible for what happened .The liability issue may evolve so that concerns over possible lawsuits do not drive manufacturers and equipment suppliers out of business.
One more far-reaching thought to emerge is that with a fully self-driving car, there is the possibility that it might be sold with some insurance already included. This is part of the argument that most accidents for which the car is held to be at fault are likely to be blamed on the software and not the driver. The seller of the car will thus need insurance more than the owner. This throws up another thorny issue: in countries such as the UK, a consumer’s first claim for faulty goods lies with the retailer, not the manufacturer. The second link in the chain is retailer to manufacturer.
And to complicate things even more, in the USA each state is responsible for setting its own insurance regulations. A study has suggested that some form of ‘no fault’ insurance, where the injured party is paid out whatever the situation, may be the solution. And another issue is that, at the moment, the driver is always required to be in control of the car (ready to take over at all times). This suggests that however autonomous a car may become, the driver could still be at fault.
One thing is clear –manufacturers, consumers and insurance companies, not to mention public authorities – have a great deal to think about and many issues to resolve, far beyond just how well self-driving cars perform.