How Does Car Insurance Work With a Self-Driving Car?

A self-driving car starts acting strangely, veers off the road and flattens a pedestrian or crashes into a tree. The vehicle is not empty at the time. There is a person behind the wheel, but he or she was letting the car do its own thing and never took definitive action. Nevertheless, injuries occurred, and some of them were serious. This raises the inevitable question: In a strictly legal sense, who or what was to blame?

In October of 2016, the car manufacturer known as Tesla made a startling announcement: From that point onward, every car the company produced would have the ability to fully drive itself. Meant to increase safety by removing the chance for driver error, the complete autonomy of these autonomous vehicles would also lower transportation costs while providing a wider range of individuals with easy-to-access mobility. What could be better than that?

Unfortunately, anyone who owns a computer is aware of technology’s quirky tendency to leave people in the lurch just when they need it the most. When a vehicle’s hard drive crashes at 60 miles per hour, disaster is sure to follow. The first Autopilot fatality occurred in October of 2016 when one of the earlier Tesla prototypes, the Model S, failed to sense the presence of a turning tractor-trailer. The resultant crash killed the Tesla’s owner. No one else was injured, but the blame for this accident had to fall on someone’s shoulders. In this case, the question then became: on whose?

The Driverless Car and its Impact on Insurance

Self-driving cars do possess a variety of inherent safety factors. These vehicles will never fall asleep behind the wheel, nor will they post to Facebook while in motion or receive a ticket for driving under the influence. On the other hand, all their activity occurs by rote. The driverless car lacks the capacity for making quick decisions. While a human driver might anticipate that a ball bouncing into the roadway could easily be followed by a running child, the autonomous vehicle would lack the foresight needed to make that determination. For many reasons, then, driverless cars and accidents are bound to go hand in hand, and when they do, who or what will be responsible?

Some believe that the day will come when the owner of a driverless car will have no need of an insurance policy. At the current time, insurance rates rely heavily on such factors as the vehicle owner’s driving record and history of claims. Drivers who speed on a regular basis will pay the highest premiums while those who never get a ticket will benefit from safe driver discounts. With the autonomous car, the responsibility for any mishap could easily shift away from the car owner or driver toward the automobile manufacturer in the belief that a faulty machine was more to blame than the vehicle owner himself.

On the other hand, many believe that the owner of a driverless car would or should have some responsibility for overriding the behavior of a vehicle that’s running out of control. The driver who fails to remain alert and chooses to read a book, surf the web or watch a movie instead of keeping tabs on a runaway machine could easily be at fault for neglecting to hit the brakes or grab the steering wheel when his autonomous wonder starts behaving badly.

Driverless Car Insurance on a State-by-State Basis

When it comes to rules of the road, there is currently no nationwide standard. Each state differs in the makeup and application of its traffic laws. While New York, for example, requires that at least one human hand be on the wheel of any car in motion, the other states do not.

The same is true of automobile insurance requirements. Michigan, for example, has recently passed a law insisting that the vehicle’s manufacturer assume liability for every accident caused by one of its driverless cars. At the present time, however, autonomous vehicles are far from the norm. Until they have succeeded in taking over the nation’s roadways, things will not be changing much. Responsibility for every accident in which they play a role will continue to revolve around such factors as:

– The road conditions.
– The presence or absence of traffic signs or signals.
– Rain, snow, sleet or similar factors.
– The potential inattentiveness of the vehicle’s owner.
– Whether the car itself failed to behave as expected.

When it comes to legal and insurance matters concerning driverless cars, the jury has not yet reached a verdict. Nevertheless, the lawyers at Powerhouse Injury Attorneys™ intend to stay current on the latest developments concerning autonomous vehicles. If you should happen to find yourself involved in an accident with one, please call us for the latest, most up-to-the-minute advice.