With the rise of the self-driving car, or autonomous vehicles, comes issues that as of yet, haven’t really been a problem.
The biggest question that needs answering is related to the insurance of these vehicles; what happens in the event of an accident when the vehicle is in charge?
Conventional thinking is easy; you have an accident and the driver(s) of the vehicles involved are held responsible, meaning that they use their insurance to cover damage and injury. But autonomous cars aren’t technically being driven by someone.
Currently, this is a non-issue, as all self-driving cars need to have someone in charge of the vehicle, ready to take over the controls in the event of an emergency, but it won’t be too long before the legislation is changed, as cars become more able and are proven to not need a ‘driver’.
In the UK, the Government have just issued guidelines relating to this issue specifically.
These guidelines (which will no doubt become legislation in the future) state that self-driving cars will effectively need to have two different types of insurance – one (the regular type) for when the driver is in control of the vehicle, and another for when the vehicle is controlling itself.
This would mean that manufacturers push the technology to ensure their cars are rated as the safest, because their insurance premiums would be lower, making their brand more attractive to buyers, but further than that – the insurance companies would look to implement legal action against the manufacturer of any vehicle involved in a collision to recover costs – a double blow for the manufacturer.
So could we expect a price hike in insurance premiums? Logic would say that the answer should be an emphatic no, but since when have insurance companies stuck to logic?
It’s very likely that for the first decade or so, insurance premiums will rise and probably quite significantly. It’s doubtful that we’ll ever see a time where we won’t need insurance, even as far as 50 years into the future when the world is dominated by true autonomous vehicles that need absolutely no human input.
In the meantime, if you’re looking at choosing a self-driving car for your next vehicle, be aware that insurance implications and legislation is coming, and attached to that will be a rise on your premium. At the moment, we’re only halfway there with autonomy – companies like Mercedes offer it, but only for short periods of time in any one stretch.