According to a lot of experts, boffins and eggheads, cars that can drive themselves are looming up on the horizon, with multiple car manufacturers already in the process of developing them.
Although it’s not entirely certain when the first of these cars will really hit the market, insurance companies have already started to warn that they could seriously affect the way they conduct business in the years ahead.
The problems are seemingly pretty obvious because when you have cars ferrying people about without anyone actually being behind the wheel and deemed to be “in charge” then the liability for any accident shifts directly from the driver to the manufacturer of the vehicle. Do as you can imagine this offers a real conundrum for not only the insurance companies but the very manufacturers who are so keen to get the “concept” on the road and in everyday use!
Basically you will have a paradigm shift in motor cover from that of personal liability to product liability insurance. However there is really no reason why insurance companies can’t prepare themselves for that outcome. However if what we read about the safety of driverless cars is true their real problem may be something far more worrisome from an insurance company financial viewpoint – when you have no accidents, you really don’t need accident insurance. We may be a long way off but the insurance companies will at some point have to deal with that particular problem. But, well it’s their problem not ours!
If you speak with the average motorist about the concept of driverless cars, after the initial response of “I wouldn’t be seen dead in one” (driverless hearses anyone?) the next response centres on what happens if there’s an accident? Who is liable? Well if we think too hard about it we can certainly get ourselves caught up in a big tangle, and, let’s face it, that sort of muddled thinking (putting the whole issue in the “too hard basket”) may let that regulatory issue delay the advancement and adoption of this technology, but ultimately it will be the consumers themselves who will suffer it that happens.
The insurance companies have said their warnings about liability are not meant as a threat to the whole concept. However it is believed by many industry insiders that insurers will feel they need certainly to flag the risks up to their investors.
At the present time a number of car manufacturers and Silicon Valley tech companies already have driverless cars under development. Apart from the well-known development by Google, which has been testing its version for some six years already, and is hoping to have it on the market by 2020 – Tesla, Audi, Nissan, Volvo and Mercedes-Benz are all on the same path. While BMW, Land Rover, Ford, Jaguar, Lincoln and GM have all confirmed they will be in the marketplace after 2020.
Time for everyone to get their thinking caps on!