Typically, when two vehicles collide in an accident the “at-fault” driver and their insurance company bear the responsibility for damages. However, this scenario isn’t as straightforward when one of the vehicles self-drives.
Today, more and more autonomous vehicles travel on our roads. Yet, the challenges they present for the insurance industry, lawmakers, and owners of autonomous vehicles are yet to be fully-defined.
Where Does Fault Lie?
Autonomous vehicles are meant to take the burden of driving decisions off the shoulders of drivers. As a result, manufacturers now find themselves in court when their vehicles are involved in an accident.
As an example, a cyclist filed a lawsuit against the automobile manufacturer, General Motors, after a self-driving Chevy Bolt hit his motorcycle while changing lanes. GM eventually chose to settle the lawsuit, even though evidence suggested his actions were at least partly to blame.
In 2018, a woman died in Arizona when a self-driving Uber car struck her as she was crossing the road.
While the investigation uncovered she crossed the road in an unsafe manner, the software, advanced radar, and sensors did not detect her. The Autonomous Braking System didn’t kick in either, plus the safety driver was not monitoring the road moments before the collision.
Had the woman survived, would the courts and insurance companies have found the manufacturer or Uber at-fault? As it turns out, no charges were laid against Uber or the manufacturer.
Added Layers of Complexity
Autonomous vehicles vary greatly. Consequently, they’re rated by their automation level. The classification system of the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) International influences insurance rates and the products insurance companies offer.
The Insurance Information Institute suggests manufacturers, suppliers, and possibly municipalities will probably bear more liability risk for collisions. This could reduce rates for driver liability coverage.
To add to the complexity, jurisdictional auto insurance rules and regulations vary. What applies in Rhode Island may not apply in another state.
Self-driving vehicles may also increase risks for cyber security and software reliability, according to IHS Automotive. Drivers need new products to mitigate these risks.
Advocates of autonomous vehicles claim they reduce driver error, which could lead to lower insurance premiums. As a result, twenty-nine states permit them on their roads and have legislation regarding requirements. However, many states have not addressed autonomous vehicles at all.
Meanwhile, those with legislation must continually adapt to address new issues. The automotive and insurance industries must also try to respond accordingly. Consequently, determining who is responsible for collisions involving autonomous vehicles can be a long, drawn out process and everything could change at any given moment.