Insurance for self-driving cars

British insurance company Adrian Flux has issued an insurance policy to cover self-driving cars.  Highlights of the policy include coverage in the following circumstances:

  • Crashes due to loss of communication with satellites or software failures;
  • Crashes due to hacking.

Even failure of drivers to take manual control in these cases is covered.

However, other situations are not covered, including:

  • Failure to take manual control when automation gives up control itself;
  • Failure to upgrade software within 24 hours of update release.

So, this insurance will not cover you if you sleep in your car while it drives you, unlike this dude:

The arrival of specialized insurance signals growing acceptance of, indeed, anticipation for, self-driving automobiles.  Self-driving cars are expected to be much safer, on the whole, than the current variety, which has been one of their selling points.  As a result, insurance rates for cars are expected to decline as the self-driving ones become more commonplace.

This situation represents a curious reversal of the status quo with cars.  As Arwen Mohun notes in Risk: Negotiating Safety in American Society, auto insurance originated as a way to deal with automotive safety issues other than by regulation or safety features, both of which were largely unpopular. 

Now, self-driving cars are being sold ostensibly based on claims to greater safety, with a resulting decrease in the importance of insurance.  This is not to say that self-driving cars will not, in fact, be safer.  I wonder, though, if potential customers are not actually more interested in productivity gains that self-driving cars may provide, such as increased opportunities to talk on their phones while commuting.  Although this behavior is supposedly ruled out by Adrian Flux's insurance policy, it may still become common.

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