step 0: today’s self parking feature and Google cars
The fact that some cars can self park themselves do not have any impact on auto insurance, because though the car is self parking itself, it does it at a speed still controlled by the driver. So the driver is the main responsible for his car liability.
step 1: partially autonomous driverless cars
We’ve been told that Mercedes is going to sell a driverless car in 2013. But the car will be driverless for 10 seconds i.e. drivers will be allowed to have their hand off the steering wheel for a maximum of 10 seconds. As far as I read, the driver will still be liable if anything bad happens during the time he has his hands off the wheel.
For the following years, we can reasonably anticipate that these 10 seconds will become 20 then 30 seconds and even a minute. From here let’s ask a series of questions:
- The biggest one being: “What is the limit from where drivers having an accident, when his car is in automated mode, will be able to attack the car manufacturer?”
- Who will decide what the limit is?
- car manufacturers, government or insurers?
- What if the US go for 35 seconds and europe for 25 seconds?
- How do we prove that the accident happened while the car was in driverless mode?
- Do driverless cars need some airplane like black boxes?
step 2: everyone can operate a driverless car
When everyone will be allowed to operate a driverless car, meaning telling it to drive automatically 100% from point A to point B, driverless car “operators” (I guess they are not “drivers” anymore) will not be liable for any accident anymore.
Who will be liable then for driverless car accident? Maybe the car manufacturer will be liable then. The car manufacturer will then transfer the fee to driverless car users. We can also imagine that driverless cars will now be leased and that they will be liable for any incident. Or maybe, will it be an auto repair shop responsible for car maintenance.
Most probably, will it be a mix of all those stakeholders.
Maybe, it won’t have any significant impact because driverless cars are supposed not to have any accident anymore...