Car Insurance and Driving Tests in the Driverless Future

Bumper carsThe boss of one of the world’s biggest insurance companies has been gazing into his crystal ball and made the headline-grabbing prediction that babies born today may never learn to drive. We decided to peek into the driverless future to see whether it’s fact or fiction.

The driving force behind the global insurance giant AXA has warned of a bumpy road ahead for car insurance providers as the sector gets to grips with changing technology. Rapid technological advances mean that self-driving vehicles could be an everyday sight on our roads by 2032 and today’s toddlers may never have to take a driving test.

While futurologists disagree over the dates (the tech titan Intel predicts that we will have to wait until 2050) the point is that driverless cars are coming, and they are coming sooner than you might think. In fact, autonomous shuttle buses are already driving people around London’s O2 arena and legislation has been passed allowing the testing of driverless vehicles on public highways.

Exactly how driverless cars will change the car insurance sector isn’t known, but the impact is likely to be seismic. One thing we can be sure about is that car insurance is here to stay. In the State Opening of Parliament the Queen announced that compulsory car insurance would be extended to autonomous vehicles “to ensure that compensation claims continue to be paid quickly, fairly, and easily, in line with longstanding insurance practice”.

We also know that computers are statistically much safer than humans behind the wheel (over 90% of accidents are caused by driver error) and that premiums are widely predicted to plummet. However, we still haven’t answered the question of who’s responsible for a crash when the car is being driven by a computer?

As part of the Vehicle Technology and Aviation Bill the government announced, ‘a single insurance product for automated vehicles will now be able to cover both the motorist when they are driving, as well as the car when it is in automated mode’.

The Association of British Insurers (ABI) has welcomed the news, as they continue to work hard on tricky liability issues to establish exactly who picks-up the bill when something goes wrong: the driver, the car manufacturer or the software developers?

In the meantime, cars are becoming increasingly automated with technological advances such as Autonomous Emergency Breaking (AEB) and automatic parking already proving to improve safety and reduce accidents, and forward-thinking insurers are already offering discounts for vehicles fitted with ‘assistive technology’.


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