Auto insurance companies in California and around the country could have much to lose if the predictions made by autonomous vehicle makers prove to be accurate. Companies like Tesla and Google say that self-driving cars will make the roads safer by eliminating the human error that causes most traffic accidents, and the Swedish car maker Volvo believes that the technology could make its passenger vehicles virtually death proof by 2020.
Self-driving vehicles present the $220 billion per year auto insurance industry with a thorny problem. Insurers are traditionally cautious when dealing with promising new technology, but they may be prompted into taking a more aggressive approach with self-driving cars. Google, Volvo and Mercedes have already said that they intend to self-insure if the insurance sector is reluctant to provide coverage, and other autonomous vehicle manufacturers are expected to do the same.
However, not all safety advocates are welcoming these developments. They say that that technology companies have been known to overlook flaws in their products or have failed to anticipate how their products would be used in the real world, and they feel that skeptical insurers are sometimes all that protect the public from unsafe products. Experts are particularly concerned about security issues and car accidents caused by self-driving vehicles that have been taken over by hackers.
Like insurance companies, personal injury attorneys may have much at stake as autonomous vehicles become an increasingly common sight on California’s roads. Attorneys also perform a safety function by holding negligent manufacturers financially responsible for their actions. Autonomous vehicle technology relies on data captured by an array of sensors, and this information could provide attorneys with a more complete account of events.