In recent years, vehicle technology has rapidly advanced towards higher levels of automation and new integrated safety capabilities. Features like collision avoidance systems, lane-centering assist, and even fully autonomous self-driving systems are becoming increasingly common, especially in new models. This transition towards vehicles that take over more of the operational roles traditionally held by human drivers has major implications for the automobile insurance industry as risk profiles shift.
Insurers need to assess how increased vehicle automation and advanced safety features may translate to reduced accident frequency and severity rates. Technologies like automated emergency braking and adaptive cruise control could make driving overall safer in the future. However, new risks around hacking vulnerabilities and other technical failures also emerge. As the technology and risk landscapes around vehicles evolve, insurance policies, pricing, and regulations will need to adapt as well.
Understanding Vehicle Automation
When evaluating the insurance impact of future vehicle systems, it’s important to establish a common language around vehicle automation capabilities. Automation is typically divided into six levels ranging from no automation at Level 0 to fully autonomous systems that can operate in all conditions without any human intervention at Level 5. Most modern vehicles with some automated features operate at Levels 1 or 2.
Higher levels indicate the vehicle can handle an increasing number of driving situations on its own, while lower levels still require significant human oversight behind the wheel. As automation capabilities progress towards fully self-driving fleets, insurance issues from data privacy to liability laws will need to evolve. But even existing advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) at lower automation levels are already transforming accident avoidance.
Key ADAS Technologies
Modern vehicles, especially in luxury segments, now incorporate a suite of sensors that power intelligent ADAS capabilities targeted at identifying hazards and preventing collisions, including:
- Forward Collision Warning: alerts drivers to risks ahead through alarms
- Automatic Emergency Braking Systems: detects impending front collisions, alerts the driver, and can deploy brakes automatically
- Blind Spot Monitoring: uses radar sensors to warn drivers changing lanes if there’s a vehicle in their blind spot
- Lane Departure Warning Systems: alerts drivers drifting out of their lane if turn signals aren’t in use
- Adaptive Cruise Control: uses onboard sensors to monitor surrounding traffic and automatically adjust vehicle speed to maintain safe distances between the equipped car and vehicles ahead
As ADAS technologies including those above continue proliferating across more new vehicles, they carry promise to help drivers avoid accidents through automated prevention and early warnings of danger. Next, we’ll explore some of the insurance issues linked to increased vehicle safety capabilities.
The rise of ADAS and eventual fully autonomous vehicle fleets will influence both the pricing and role of automobile insurance products. Key emerging insurance issues include:
Premium Setting Complications
Sophisticated vehicle sensors and accident prevention capabilities could reduce loss frequency and claims over time as technology cuts crashes. However, the pace of ADAS adoption and impact remains uncertain, complicating insurance rate-setting. Premiums may need to drop if automation cuts accidents as expected, but could spike if crashes persist due to technical defects or other causes.
New High-Tech Repair Costs
While future accidents may become rarer, replacing damaged sensors or automation components could make repairs extremely expensive. Insurers need to account for parts scarcity and sensor calibration requirements across policies. New partnerships between insurers and automated vehicle makers could ease access to manufacturers’ repair instructions and necessary tools.
Cyber Risk Exposures
Vehicles with sophisticated computers, over-the-air software updates, and V2V connectivity carry emerging risks around hacking, malware, and data privacy. Policies need enhanced cyber liability clauses covering costs if critical safety or control systems are breached and accidents result. Managing these new cyber risk vectors will only grow as vehicles become technology platforms.
Evolving Liability Questions
For accidents that do occur, determining liability grows more complex as automated systems take over functions previously controlled by drivers. Do technical glitches leave manufacturers legally at fault? How will liability be portioned between human drivers and automated vehicles operating at the time of loss? Regulations and insurance policies will
need to adapt around accountability.
Overall, while vehicle automation holds immense promise to reduce accidents over the long term, the technology raises new cost, repair, cyber, regulatory, and liability questions for insurers worldwide. Managing public expectations and pricing changes amid uncertainty poses additional challenges requiring proactive strategies.
Most Asked Insurance Questions
As vehicle automation capabilities advance, consumers looking into new or leased car options will likely have some common questions about the impacts on their auto insurance needs:
Will maintaining ADAS features lower my insurance premiums?
Insurers do consider a vehicle’s specific active safety features when pricing policies, so cars with automated emergency braking, forward collision warning systems, or other accident prevention technologies may qualify policyholders for small discounts on premiums today. Those savings could expand further in the future.
Does automating more driving functions change who’s liable in accidents?
For now, state laws typically assign fault in crashes involving autonomous features as they would for human drivers – to owners or operators. However, proving fault grows more complex with autonomous systems. New regulations updating liability laws will likely emerge to account for responsibility issues as automation sophistication increases over time.
Could cyber attacks compromise automated vehicle safety?
As vehicles have incorporated more computers, sensors, and over-the-air software connections, cyber risk exposures have increased substantially. Researchers have already demonstrated remote hacks into key control modules for test vehicles. While carmakers continually improve cyber protections, risks likely persist and represent an emerging issue insurers must continually evaluate.
Do I need specialized coverage for automated or self-driving cars?
At present for models on the road today, standard auto insurance policies still apply without the need for specific endorsements. But as capabilities advance, insurers may offer specialized autonomous vehicle policies. Premiums and coverage terms would adapt to match the unique risk profiles of self-driving vehicles eliminating manual operation.
In closing, vehicle automation through ADAS features promises immense safety improvements on roads globally by enhancing accident avoidance and reducing driver errors. These technologies fundamentally transform risk profiles. While emerging cyber and liability questions persist, increased adoption over time should translate to reduced driving hazards and lower insurance costs overall for both consumers and insurers. Continued development collaboration between vehicle manufacturers, regulators, and the insurance industry will further maximize life-saving impacts going forward.