Insurance Academy

Guest Post: Who Is Liable When No One Is Driving? Finale

By | March 7, 2018

We are grateful for friend of the Academy, Christopher J. Boggs, CPCU, ARM, ALCM, LPCS, AAI, APA, CWCA, CRIS, AINS, Executive Director, Big “I” Virtual University who provided this blog series about autonomous vehicles.

If you missed any part of this series, here are the links to go back and read it. (you really should, you know).

Guest Post: Who Is Liable When No One Is Driving? Part 1

Guest Post: Who Is Liable When No One Is Driving? Part 2

Guest Post: Who Is Liable When No One Is Driving? Part 3

Not an Overnight Change

This transition won’t take place in the next few years; the US is still years away from fully autonomous vehicle. But between now and then, there are many unknowns none of us can answer – with certainty. These curves and forks in the road include:

Will the auto policy wording have to change and adapt?

  • Will the concept of legal liability related to auto accidents change?
  • Will the court system have to change?
  • Will government involve itself in the transition with forced upgrades of technologically “older” vehicles?
  • Will the government make non-autonomous vehicles illegal to speed the transition time?
  • Will consumers be required to enter indemnification and hold harmless agreements with the technology providers?
  • Will municipalities find it necessary to include driverless technology as part of their cyber coverage?
  • Will a no-fault type system become the norm?
  • Will autonomous technology costs follow historical trends where early editions are extremely expensive but drop over the multiple generations of development, ultimately making tech costs negligible?
  • Once phase 5 is hit, how much better might technology become over the following 10, 20, or 30 years.
  • Will taxes increase to pay for the technological infrastructure?
  • Will taxes be increased to recoup the lost revenue historically generated from tickets given for speeding and other moving violation?
  • Since the cars are constantly monitored, would there be any need for annual inspections?
  • Will there be on-the-street parking, or will cars just drive around until the driver is ready? Will there be a centralized parking deck that all cars travel to while awaiting the driver to summon it?
  • Might oil changes occur in the middle of the night while the driver is sleeping? Will this necessitate all night auto service facilities? Same with gas stations. Will cars fill up for us while we are doing something else?
  • Will drive-through operations (McDonalds and others) be required to alter their order-taking methodology (allowing orders to be texted or emailed)? Will the cars be equipped to transmit the order?
  • Will car ownership drop? Will ours become a car-sharing society where no one owns a car, just summons the closet one to go where we need to go (Uber and Lyft on steroids)?
  • Will ownership become state or corporate rather than individual? If so, who is liable? If state-owned, will sovereign immunity apply?

Hold on! Twists and turns and the unknown ahead.

Final Disclaimer

As you may have noticed, this article’s focus is the personal auto exposure; the advancement of commercial autos was not considered. However, as Ron Berg, executive director of IIABA’s Agents Council for Technology (ACT), pointed out, commercial fleets are much further down the road to autonomy than private passenger vehicles (the “fleet” of personally-owned cars). In particular, commercial trucking is moving much more quickly to fully autonomous fleets than any other segment.

Because commercial trucking fleets are advancing more quickly towards autonomy, fleets are sure to move through the five phases faster than detailed above. One reason is that the need for technological infrastructure changes and improvements are more condensed. Trucking requires the necessary infrastructure exist between terminals only rather than the entire city or town to accomplish full autonomy.

Although the time frame may be shortened (one to one-and-a-half automotive generations rather than two or three), the same issues and questions apply to these fleets. And one other issue is created by commercial trucking’s move toward autonomy, will the workers’ compensation exposure change?

Christopher J. Boggs, CPCU, ARM, ALCM, LPCS, AAI, APA, CWCA, CRIS, AINS, is Independent Insurance Agents and Brokers of America (IIABA or the Big “I”) Virtual University executive director. He joined the Big “I” team in November 2016. His current duties involve researching, writing, and teaching property and casualty insurance coverages and concepts to Big “I” members and others in the insurance industry.

About Christopher J. Boggs

Christopher J. Boggs joined the insurance industry in 1990. He is currently the Executive Director, Big I Virtual University and former Vice President of Education for Insurance Journal's Academy of Insurance. More from Christopher J. Boggs

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