Self-driving cars: will you still need auto insurance?

I’m not sure if I’m ready to get into a driverless car and let it take me to the store. Images of Skynet dance in my brain. I don’t think I’m alone.

​”Human decisions are removed.” This short clip from Terminator 2 is funny… and a little creepy.

​The future is here now.
​But it doesn’t matter if I’m comfortable with smart cars. ​Self-driving cars are already on the road. They’ve logged more than a million miles, and that’s just the start. Google has made self-driving cars front page news. By 2014, articles about these little robotic cars started showing up in my news feed almost every week.

Most major auto manufacturers have already begun working on driverless cars, including Audi, Ford, Mercedes, Nissan, Toyota and Volvo. And General Motors is offering a hands-free super cruise system with automated driving on some freeways in 2016.

The future will be at your local auto dealership in just a few months.

​How soon before your car is smarter than you?
​It may be a while before your car fires you from your job as “Driver-in Chief.” After all, airplanes still need pilots, even with auto pilot so good that it can land a 747 on a dime. There are several reasons why self-driving cars aren’t anywhere near replacing mom at the wheel:

    • Failure of technology (“stuff breaks”)
    • Sudden change of the driving environment (a police officer gesturing for you to pull over)
    • Ethical dilemmas (an emergency situation that requires an instant decision about which thing or person you hit in a “no-win” scenario”)

Of course, there are more obstacles than this. This Popular Mechanics article lists additional challenges to self-driving cars. We’re years away from being able to take a nap while your car drives you to work.

But experts seem agreed that self-driving cars will be a normal part of the driving landscape by 2020. Your friend will have one. You know *that* friend- the guy or gal who has to have the coolest new gadgets. By 2035, as many as 25% of all new cars sold will be self-driving.

Will you be able to drop your auto insurance?
​Nope. Probably not in this lifetime. At least not while you have the ability to take the wheel back from your super-smart car. Human error will still be a risk for decades to come…maybe indefinitely. And human error is what your insurance was made to protect you against. Whether it’s your error or the other person’s, it doesn’t matter. If a human makes a mistake, the car isn’t going to get blamed.

However, insurance companies will have to reduce rates when self driving cars hit the road in significant numbers. Google’s first million miles proved that the accident rate for self driving cars is incredibly lower than “human only” driving. The computer simply won’t make errors like we do. After 1.8 million miles, Google’s test vehicles had only 16 minor accidents- none of them the fault of the vehicle. So accidents and fatalities will go down, and your rates will too. Eventually. Hopefully. Some experts predict premiums as much as 60% lower than today’s premiums… 15 years from now.

You will still need auto insurance.
I’m sorry to break it to you, but there are going to be crazy drivers and unpredictable situations for many years to come. Technology may eventually replace every single driver. But until it does, you’re going to need an insurance agent.

What are your thoughts? Are you ready to give up the steering wheel?