Who Insures The Robot Cars?

Tim Crowley
Posted on August 19, 2014
Driverless dreams are nothing new.

Driverless dreams are nothing new.

Driverless dreams are nothing new.

Driverless dreams are nothing new.

As Google continues to refine its driverless car technology, bringing them closer to mainstream use, the question arises of what to do in case of an accident? There is no doubt that accidents will happen as driverless cars enter daily commutes, and a couple of articles recently have asked the questions of what might happen once they are on the road and something, inevitably, goes wrong.

The Atlantic brought up the liability issue back in April. It raised the question of how to apportion blame between humans and the car’s automated systems. If the car has a bug, then will Google be responsible for covering the crash and damages?

Another interesting article from Wired took the discussion even further by bringing up the ethical conundrum used by philosophers and moralists known as the “trolley problem,” which basically asks, if you are manning a runaway trolley with no brakes, and one track leads to a collision that causes five deaths, and another track leads to just one death (maybe even your own), what do you do?

Can automated cars be capable of this type of decision-making? In this fast-paced world, some of these things don’t seem so far-fetched, and we will have to see how other markets that service commuters, such as auto insurance, will adapt as driverless cars slowly make their way onto the highways.

It is an interesting time to be a part of the chauffeured transportation industry, with so many new apps and technologies coming into play. What are your thoughts?

— Tim Crowley, LCT senior editor

Related Topics: accident reduction, driverless cars, insurance policies, mobile technology, passenger safety, Safety, self-driving vehicles, technology, vehicle technology

Comments ( 1 )
  • kelvin

     | about 6 years ago

    Ultimately, driverless vehicles will not be subject to the "trolley problem" because roadways will adapt to suit the technology in the same way we don't allow planes to take off on public roadways or trains to run down the middle of a freeway. It would be sheer madness to allow driverless cars on our current system of roads due to the variations in weather and other factors that would cause problems for such vehicles. The future of this technology will arrive with a system of isolated roadways for driverless vehicles probably set underground beneath existing roadways. While automakers are announcing all kinds of new technologies and acting like they can predict the future, it is not that simple, and there will be many hurdles to overcome before this new tech will work as expected. Just imagine a driverless car on a snow covered road or a road with no markings to indicate a division in the road. There are simply too many issues with driverless cars outside of the very fixed parameters in which they are being developed for the technology to be anywhere close to being ready for mainstream adoption. 15 years will probably be the realistic timeframe for the future proposed here. We already have the technology it's just a matter of modifying the infrastructure to support it.

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