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Auto insurance and the cars of the future

Travelers, the nation’s oldest and perhaps best well-known auto insurer, recently released a white paper giving guidance to the insurance industry. This white paper focuses on a potentially tricky and difficult to navigate area of auto insurance: the insuring of autonomous vehicles.

Autonomous, “self-driving” vehicles are currently being piloted in cities across the country, to various degrees of success. There have already been some high-profile crashes involving these cars and trucks, including a recent one that resulted in the death of a pedestrian.

Much of the attention in developing these futuristic vehicles is on the auto manufacturers themselves. Specifically, the focus is on making these vehicles as safe as possible, through both body design and integrated automated components. There is another, perhaps equally important aspect of autonomous vehicles, however, and that is determining the best insurance scheme for them.

Ideally, any insurance system put into place that covers self-driving vehicles needs to consider the potential for human injury as well as the higher property costs that will come with autonomy (sophisticated computer and LIDAR systems, for example, and adaptive technologies all come at a premium). Travelers recommends against reinventing the wheel, and suggests building upon the current insurance system already in place, but making modifications to account for the differences between autonomous vehicles and human-directed ones. These include:

  • Requiring all vehicle owners to purchase adequate insurance
  • Setting higher minimum liability, collision and medical care limits for policies covering self-driving cars and trucks
  • Educating the public at large about safety concerns specific to autonomous vehicles
  • Protecting self-driving vehicles from cyberattack/hacking as much as possible at the manufacturer level, building redundancies into the system to increase safety
  • Developing a uniform state law for use across the country describing the insurance scheme for autonomous vehicles

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