Self-driving cars and the auto insurance industry

West Virginia residents may be aware that some bold claims have been made about the impact that autonomous vehicle technology and self-driving cars will have on road safety. A senior Volvo executive recently said that the Swedish car maker hopes to virtually eliminate fatalities in its vehicles by 2020, and companies like Tesla and Google point to accident statistics revealing that the vast majority of auto crashes involve human error of one sort or another.

If these predictions are correct, a reduction in the number of road traffic accidents will result in far fewer auto insurance claims , and some insurance industry experts fear that self-driving cars could have a significant impact on the $220 billion per year sector. Insurers are generally reluctant to embrace new technology until it has been proven safe and effective in the real world, and several autonomous vehicle makers have vowed to self-insure their products if their customers are unable to obtain traditional coverage.

While electronics manufacturers and software developers tend to focus primarily on the benefits and potential of new technology, insurers often take a more sober and pragmatic approach. Safety experts are particularly worried about the possibility that malicious individuals could hack self-driving cars and deliberately cause accidents.

Autonomous vehicle technology could also make it easier for law enforcement to determine the sequence of events leading up to an accident. Motorists are rarely eager to admit that they were distracted or driving recklessly prior to a car collision, and data gathered by the cameras, radar and sensors fitted to self-driving cars may provide a more reliable account. Personal injury attorneys making a determination about what party should bear financial responsibility for an accident could also find the data captured by autonomous vehicle technology useful when police reports and eyewitness statements are inconclusive.

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