How much will it cost to insure an autonomous car?

Google is meeting with insurance companies to discuss autonomous vehicle insurance issues.

A driver behind the wheel of Continental's highly automated Volkswagen Passat.
A driver behind the wheel of Continental's highly automated Volkswagen Passat. Continental

Will automotive insurance companies charge you one rate if you're manually driving the vehicle, and another when your car drives itself? That's what Google wants to find out, and is meeting with automotive insurances companies to speed the process for legalizing self-driving cars.

Anthony Levandowski, Google automotive product manager, gave the keynote address at the Society of Automotive Engineers World Congress in Detroit last week, and disclosed that the company has been meeting with an unnamed insurance company, according to a Detroit Free Press article. Complex regulatory and liability issues could stall the technology that is fast approaching production, and these types of discussions with insurance companies could smooth the path for this emerging technology.

Autonomous vehicles are safer than those driven manually by humans, according Google's research. Google's fleet of self-driving Priuses have clocked more than 200,000 miles on the road with only two minor fender-benders on its record. Incidentally, one of the accidents was caused by human error when the driver switched the vehicle into manual mode. Automotive technology supplier Continental has demonstrated more than 6,000 miles of accident-free driving in a highly automated Volkswagen Passat in Nevada.

If insurers agree that autonomous cars are less accident prone, they could be cheaper to insure. But computerized driving won't always be guaranteed, as the driver can always take control of the wheel. And in the event of an accident, how will police and insurers decide who is at fault? If the robotic car is deemed the instigator, who will be held liable: the driver or the auto manufacturer that developed the technology?

These questions need to be addressed sooner rather than later. General Motors said that self-driving vehicles will be on the road by 2020, and it, along with several other automakers, will soon integrate autonomous components in production vehicles.

So far Nevada is the only state that allows companies to legally test vehicles on state roads--although it's not clear if any company has been granted a permit--but other states, including California, Florida, Oklahoma, and Hawaii are also in the process of legalizing robotic cars. To protect other drivers in the event of an accident, Nevada legislation requires companies to post a $1 to $3 million bond to insure these cars.

Source: Detroit Free Press

 

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