A critical issue in the coming adoption of autonomous cars will be how liability is assessed and assigned by insurance companies. When an autonomous car crashes, who is to blame? Does liability lie with the human for not overriding the system? Or does liability reside with the car manufacturer, or even the Tier 1 supplier of sensors? Volvo is thus far the lone manufacturer to state that it will bear responsibility when one of its vehicles crashes in autonomous mode. If autonomous cars are to become ubiquitous, the car manufacturers, regulators, and insurance companies will have to develop a framework that all stakeholders can buy into.
Andrew Rose of Compare.com, an insurance comparison site, tells insurers, “You need to be completely freaked out by the idea of autonomous cars—and completely relaxed.” He said in a phone interview that in 30 years, it’s likely most of the auto insurance business will be gone. Autonomous vehicles will wreck less over time, which means lower premiums will be required to cover losses, and therefore less auto insurance will be required. “Insurers can relax,” Rose said, “because it’s going to take time to get there.”