The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) recently released results from its investigation into a minor collision involving an autonomous shuttle bus and a commercial truck in 2017. No one was injured in the crash; however, the incident did highlight some autonomous vehicle risks.
The autonomous shuttle operates on a predetermined route but does not have a steering wheel, brake pedal, or accelerator pedal. The attendant could only operate the shuttle using a hand-held controller which was not easily accessible when the incident occurred. A new policy was implemented that made the controller more accessible throughout a trip.
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The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has confirmed Tesla’s claim that its Autopilot and active safety features result in ‘fewer physical damage, injury liability claims.’ However, IIHS also found that the introduction of these features could increase other kinds of claims.
The combined driver assistance features on the 2014–16 Model S lowered the frequency of claims filed under property damage liability (PDL) and bodily injury (BI) liability coverage with the 2012–14 Model S without the technology. However, IIHS didn’t find that they lowered the frequency of collision claims. They also saw increases in MedPay and PIP claims.
Highway Loss Data Institute’s senior vice president, Matt Moore, admits that they would need more data to really understand the effect of Autopilot.
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Travelers Institute released a white paper expressing their view on autonomous vehicles (AVs) and the role the auto insurance industry should play in addressing the significant policy questions and challenges that will inevitably arise in the future. An insurer that has been around for more than 160 years, Travelers applauds the safety advances of AVs and believes that the current auto system can accommodate AVs and non-AVs.
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According to Law360, a surge in demand for product liability insurance will become a trend as advances in autonomous car technology continues to increase. These autonomous cars are removing humans from the equation, resulting in liability for accidents being shifted away from the drivers and toward the manufacturers of driverless vehicles and their hardware and software systems.
Questions regarding who would be held liable in crashes involving self-driving cars arose after a fatal accident in May involving a Tesla Model S that was equipped with partially autonomous braking and steering features. Although Tesla did state that the Model S brakes were to blame for the crash, not the autopilot feature, this event continues to attract concern from regulators and consumers.
“Experts say that as autonomous cars become more sophisticated and require less human input, the manufacturers of self-driving vehicles and their components will face more liability for accidents while individual drivers will face less.”
Subsequently, personal auto insurance pricing is expected to decrease significantly due to the decline in driver liability, while auto manufacturers and suppliers will see an increase in price for their product liability coverage.
“The entire auto insurance industry may be radically changed,” Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP partner Peter Gillon said. “Drivers are the real risks these days and not the cars. The more you take driver error out of the equation, the more you are looking at an auto insurance market based on safety system performance and product liability.”
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