Patricia L. Harman, Editor-in-Chief
The thought of autonomous cars is an exciting prospect for the auto in- dustry, but it will create some headaches for insurers if and when these vehicles are allowed on the road.
Since there are different levels of “autonomy” available, determining whether or not a driver was actually in control of the vehicle will be key to determining who is at fault in an accident. Despite laws that require a licensed driver be
behind the wheel and paying attention to what is going on around the vehicle,
the reality is that even without autonomous options, drivers are busy talking
on phones, texting and engaging in other activities that pull their eyes and
attention off of the road.
There have been discussions about manufacturers taking responsibility for
crashes caused by their autonomous vehicles, but in some cases, the owner
could be responsible for failing to download important updates in a timely
fashion. After the Tesla crash last year, the company remotely sent updates to
all of its vehicles to help alleviate a similar situation in the future, so manufacturers understand the value of keeping software current.
With all of this technology available, vehicles will also have vulnerabilities
that make it easier to hack into their systems. What if a vehicle is involved in
an accident while in autonomous mode because a hacker was able to gain access to the system and override the program that controls when the car stops,
turns or anticipates another vehicle? Is the manufacturer at fault because the
vulnerability allowed the system to be hacked? Is the driver at fault for not
paying attention to what was going on in the vehicle or taking back control of
the car? Is the hacker liable for causing the incident? These will be important
questions going forward.
Allowing vehicles to communicate with each other is a popular idea for
reducing the number of incidents on the roads, however, the National Highway
Transportation Safety Administration received feedback from more than 400
individuals and groups who don’t necessarily share that perspective. While
automakers have invested more than $1 billion in developing this technology,
there are groups who believe the technology will be outdated and not have
the safety impact currently being touted.
We’ll be looking at some of these issues at the 21st Annual America Claims
Event in Charlotte, N.C., on June 20-22. Please plan to join the discussion!