Insuring driverless cars is going to be difficult

As we’ve mentioned a few times here at, some of the biggest problems relating to driverless cars over the next few years, isn’t going to be developing the technology, or convincing people it will be worthwhile, or even making it all affordable for people: it’s figuring out how to legislate it all, and insurance is a big part of that.

Think about it. If the car has no human driver, surely it isn’t the fault of the person sat in it how the car behaves. Theoretically, the insurance should be based around the type of software and sensory equipment that the car is equipped with. What are the legal requirements for such insurance?  Will that mean an end to the insurance business as we know it? These are some of the questions being asked now and it’s clearly a moral and legal minefield which will need picking through with a fine toothed comb before being given the go ahead.

Of course it’s going to be a while before we see lots of cars with full autonomous systems, where the “driver,” really can just sit back and relax for the entirety of the journey. In the meantime however, we’re going to be dealing with stop gap technologies, which allow for certain automated functions. We’ve already seen lane assist technology and automatic breaking, as well as parking assistance, but future tech could see cars in traffic jams switch over to an automated mode, only changing back to manual when speeds increase. How then, do we deal with that?

According to some, like Adrian Lund, president of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety in the US, we won’t. “Why buy an autonomous vehicle if you have to maintain control,” he said, suggesting that insurers would still consider the driver responsible in the case of an accident during one of those automated movements.


While the UK is keen to push forward with autonomous tech, in the US they’re much more cautious, with many lawmakers suggesting that no state allows the use of autonomous technology until it’s been hashed out at the federal level.

Some however are keen to get started. Florida governor Rick Scott has told Audi (after testing its A7 autonomous vehicle) that he had legislation ready to go as soon as the automakers were ready. It’s California though where the most innovation is happening according to the WSJ. Bernard Soriano, California’s Department of Motor Vehicles deputy director, has pledged this month to introduce draft laws for autonomous vehicles, which could then be tested on a trial run basis, before being written into the law book with tweaks if needed.

Insurers however, have said that they won’t even consider insuring autonomous vehicles until they see proof that taking someone’s hands off the wheel will reduce the chances of an accident. Chances are they know well and good that they will cut back on accidents, but don’t want to lose the very lucrative and until this tech came along, entirely unthreatened (and continually expanding) car insurance market.

What do you guys think would be a good work around for this insurance quagmire?

Image Source: Sam Churchill

    Jon Martindale

    Jon Martindale is an English author and journalist, who's written for a number of high-profile technology news outlets, covering everything from the latest hardware and software releases, to hacking scandals and online activism.

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