How Much Closer Are We To A “Driverless” Future?

Driverless

Although the technology prophecy in Back to the Future: II, much like its World Series prognosis, was wrongly predicted – autonomous vehicles may actually be here before we know it. This time last year we discussed how driverless car technology was progressing and what it would mean to those in the insurance industry. Experiments have been conducted on automating cars since at least the 1920’s.  So, have there been any significant advancements in 2015?

What is an AUTONOMOUS VEHICLE?

An Autonomous Vehicle is capable of fulfilling the main transportation capabilities of a traditional car and is capable of sensing its environment and navigating without human input. Autonomous vehicles sense their surroundings with such techniques as radar, lidar, GPS, and computer vision. Advanced control systems interpret sensory information to identify appropriate navigation paths, as well as obstacles and relevant signage.

AV Technology Leaders

This year, Tesla Motors co-founder and CEO Elon Musks said “autonomous vehicle technology is advancing to where self-driving cars will be taken for granted soon.”  CBS news reports that just last month (October 2015) Tesla rolled out its new autopilot system in its Model S, calling it a step on the path to a self-driving car.  The results have been interesting – with Youtube search results ranging from “scary”, “amazing” and even “Tesla Autopilot saves the day.”

Where is the liability if this technology fails? When interviewed by CBS news, Bryant Walker Smith, a law professor at the University of South Carolina who specializes in autonomous vehicles says “by marketing a system that does some but not all of the driving, Tesla could be setting itself up for liability first if the vehicle malfunctions, but second if the driver of the vehicle misuses or abuses the system”.

Be “In the Know” and Keep strategizing

As technology changes, the insurance industry will have to adapt along with it.  Last year we talked about how driverless technology could eventually lead to lower premiums and insurance company profits.  Where do you think liability lies when it comes to “driverless” vehicles?  How do you think this will affect the insurance industry?