Automotive

UK company launches insurance policy for autonomous cars

Insurance is changing to keep up with self driving cars
Insurance is changing to keep up with self driving cars
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The Tesla Model S provided our first taste of semi-autonomous driving 
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The Tesla Model S provided our first taste of semi-autonomous driving 
The Model S is one of the reasons Adrian Flux is launching its autonomous car policy
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The Model S is one of the reasons Adrian Flux is launching its autonomous car policy
The Model S' Autopilot system can steer, start and stop the car 
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The Model S' Autopilot system can steer, start and stop the car 
Insurance is changing to keep up with self driving cars
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Insurance is changing to keep up with self driving cars
The Tesla Model S is one of many cars on the road with self-driving tech
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The Tesla Model S is one of many cars on the road with self-driving tech
Volvo will be testing its self driving tech in London and China
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Volvo will be testing its self driving tech in London and China

When two human drivers have an accident, blame is apportioned and the appropriate person's insurance pays for things to get fixed. But things get a bit trickier when self-driving cars are involved, especially when you get into the nitty gritty of software updates and satellite failures. UK insurance firm Adrian Flux has opened up the debate with its autonomous car insurance policy, intended for cars like the Tesla Model S.

The Adrian Flux policy outlines a few autonomous-specific scenarios that need to be addressed, the first of which concerns software. Although the driver might be forced to pay an increased excess, the policy says drivers of autonomous cars are still covered if they've failed to install a software update, but only within 24 hours of being notified of its availability. After that 24-hour grace period, there's no word on whether you're covered or not – so assume not.

Even when the software in a car is fully up to date, there is a risk that satellite failures or software issues will cause the car to have an accident. There is also, rather scarily, a risk of accidents or damage being caused by hackers when we cede control to software systems, so the policy covers these potential circumstances as well.

The Tesla Model S provided our first taste of semi-autonomous driving 
The Tesla Model S provided our first taste of semi-autonomous driving 

Finally, current autonomous consumer cars all have some sort of manual override, but that doesn't mean drivers will always step in to stop mechanical, software of navigational issues causing a crash. If one of these factors is to blame in an accident and the driver doesn't take manual control to prevent it, Adrian Flux's policy still covers them.

Although there are a lot of considerations in the policy that we haven't seen before, some things haven't changed – for one, the driver still needs to be aware and ready to control the car, so the days of napping through your daily commute haven't arrived just yet. As it is for existing cars, blame will also still be apportioned based on the car's condition, the road conditions, the driver's awareness at the time and (of course) the role played by other drivers.

Volvo will be testing its self driving tech in London and China
Volvo will be testing its self driving tech in London and China

It's also worth bearing in mind that this policy is likely to change dramatically as self-driving tech changes. As it does, the role insurance has to play will have to change with it. This was recognized by Volvo CEO Hakan Samuelsson who said "the medium to long-term impact [of autonomous cars] on the insurance industry is likely to be significant," at an insurance panel discussion earlier this year.

How significant? Research by HERE and Swiss Re suggests autonomous technologies could slice US$20 billion off the world's automotive insurance premiums by 2020. That's a huge hit to what is, according to the same researchers, the largest single slice of the pie that is global insurance premiums.

But as Samuelsson also pointed out, the reason for this reduction in premiums is "fewer accidents, fewer injuries, fewer fatalities. Autonomous driving cars are the single most important advance in automotive safety to be seen in recent years."

Source: Adrian Flux

3 comments
CAVUMark
Shouldn't self driving cars self-insure?
Bob Flint
That's just the tip of the iceberg, factor in the consumer's cost compared to traditional insurance, the time for settlement, and the driver's responsibility to be able to "step in" What is the point of a unfocused perhaps inebriated driver to try to react to a situation that isn't suppose to occur in the first place? Oh I suppose the software & satellite companies have deeper pockets, so that will be liable, right they have more loop holes, than grannies knitwear..... Not to worry those able to afford the exorbitant costs of the vehicles, & systems are going to pay handsomely, as they are shuttled about in their perfectly functioning, obedient vehicles.
AgnarSmith
I hope insurance companies go under with self driving cars. Just like red light cameras and cops. Good bye and good riddance forever.