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Driverless Cars: Are we ready for this?

By October 7, 2016Auto Insurance

Driverless cars will certainly be a major change. Whether it they will be good, bad or indifferent is speculation until these cars hit the road. Here are a couple of thoughts to consider while we inch closer to that day.


Naturally, as an insurance agent, my focus begins with this e question: of what What will happen if there is an accident and no one is driving? The expectation is that there will be fewer accidents. , However, it was found in a study by the University of Michigan that these autonomous vehicles (AV) were actually involved in accidents more frequently, but in every case were not at fault. The website, GovTech discusses this report further. While the small sampling size produced encouraging data, there will be cases where an AV collides with a vehicle that has cut it off or when a pedestrian that runs in front of a car causing an unavoidable accident. The question of liability will be raised. Should the owner be held responsible for this or is it a matter of product liability that should fall on the manufacturer? To illustrate this risk further, if the vehicle malfunctions and causes injury or damage, who is liable?

Insurance Journal published an interview with Hilary Rowan from the law firm Sedgwick LLP that has been analyzing the legal implications of California’s BMV regulations. According to Hilary Rowan, California has a much more detailed regimen in place, focusing primarily on safety, is in depth than other states who have adopted legislation for this issue, Self Driving Vehicle Legislation

Seems to me that when it comes to legislation, the best laws are those which are elegantly written or efficient. Preferably, the state houses will step back and allow the Insurance Industry to address the risks.

One aspect that presents an interesting opportunity is parking. If a car does not need a driver then could we see valet drops as the new norm? For real estate developers, this could present a major shift in how they move people through their buildings. Imagine a Cavs game or an office downtown. Your car drops you off at the door then drives itself to a parking garage. Of course, this raises another question of how a car would collect a ticket and pay? When you are ready to leave, you may hail your car to come to you.

Mass Transit
The notion of driverless cars will certainly change how we evaluate mass transit. This would eliminate the value proposition of being able to relax or do other things while riding the bus. It may also call into question, why the public is subsidizing 80% of the cost to operate the Cleveland Regional Transit Authority.

Sprawl and Commutes
While some may rail about how evil and insidious it is for citizens to move out of the city and into the suburbs, I would suspect that an autonomous car will only make the ex-burbs even more attractive. If your car is going to take on the stress of a commute then the driver could in theory spend that time reading or even working remotely from the passenger seat. Why not clock in at the office when you get into the car and begin being productive on the ride into work and wrap up some calls on the way home?

Living in Lakewood and having been involved in government, I can say that these are not the sort of things that will be welcome change for some. It will be interesting to see how this technology is integrated into our daily lives and how the consequences, both intended and unintended are addressed.

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