Driverless cars are an ever creeping technology, small, incremental baby steps are happening all the time. But what effect will these new technologies have on our insurance premiums?
AXA, one of the world’s largest insurers has been testing autonomous vehicles, and how they react in different situations.
They’re helping the UK Government to work out policies on how to deal with the future of motoring. And it’s one where less and less control is being given to the driver.
The idea is to have an insurance policy as you currently do. Blame will be attested in the normal way, so, who hit who. A pay-out will be made as usual. Then, the arguing of whether the car or driver was to blame will continue behind the scenes, amongst the insurer and the car manufacturer.
To coin a phrase ‘It wasn’t me guv’ most likely won’t get you off the hook if you blame your car. The amount of telemetry data that’s logged these days will easily be able to portion blame onto the driver or the car itself.
But if it’s the car’s fault, then why should you be punished?
An interesting example in AXA’s recent tests was a head on collision between a car and a quad bike. With no other way out of the situation the car dives right, and hits the quad. Needless to say the dummy of a rider ends up scraping across the lip of the open bonnet and across the roof.
If the car had picked the larger SUV, the damage to its own occupant would have most likely been more severe. But at least the car wouldn’t have killed the quad biker.
So if the car killed another motorist, who goes to prison?
It’s a messy, murky world, one that will ultimately breed a new wave of solicitors, judges, police and crash investigation techniques.
Insurance companies are saying that autonomous tech will help bring premiums down. Granted, that’s all well and good when we’re talking about crash mitigation, but full on autonomy is a whole different ball game.
Emergency braking to stop a rear end shunt is a world away from self-driving vehicles. So whilst premiums may be falling if you have this tech installed, it’s got to come to a tipping point where the balance of safety technology teeters and falls toward autonomy. In turn upping premiums to deal with the mess it could potentially cause.
Until vehicles truly get to Level 4/5 on the autonomy scale (that’s to say they are either driverless in certain environments, or are totally autonomous and can operate without a driver) there’s going to be an in-between no man’s land for a decade or so. Full autonomy obviously means the car is at fault, but until we reach that stage the insurance market is going to get a lot tougher.
It bodes well for some insurers to take early steps in aiding industry and government. KPMG have predicted that the car insurance market could shrink to just 40% of its current size.
Another stark prediction is that autonomous vehicles may cut the number of car accidents by a massive 90%. The car insurance racket may not even exist in a generation’s time. Especially as Tesla looks to take everything in house, effectively insuring you in with the purchase price of the vehicle.
Imagine how that would shake things up?
We’re still waiting to see how the self-preservation algorithms work, whose side will your car pick in a life or death situation? And will auto makers be hauled into court to fight death by dangerous driving charges?
It’s a good thing insurance companies are this forward thinking, it will hopefully make the road ahead much smoother for us all.
But the future looks…complicated, to say the least