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Autonomous cars. Insurance dream or nightmare for customers?

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Most car drivers think they are very skilled. Numerous independent studies show that approximately 70 percent of drivers rate their skills behind the wheel as above average. And before you think that means 30 percent claimed to be below par, one Irish study found that while 69 percent rated themselves above average, less than one percent described their skills as below par.

Conor Faughnan, AA Director of Policy explains why this may be a problem:

“While there are many excellent drivers out there, the findings of our survey do suggest that most of us are more than a little biased when it comes to our own driving. None of us are perfect and most of us have unwittingly picked up bad and sometimes even dangerous habits that we are not aware of.”

With these beliefs in place, it is little wonder that so many people are ambivalent about the notion of autonomous vehicles. If most drivers think they have above average skills, then how can computers and algorithms possibly be better?

The actual facts

Sadly, actual statistics show that humans aren’t as good at driving as we think. Around 90 percent of traffic accidents are caused by human error. If you drive on a daily basis you already know this – how many near-misses have you had when another driver did something unexpected?

So while many petrol heads are horrified by the notion of autonomous vehicles, that horror is somewhat misguided. Imagine driving on roads where nobody ever tried to beat a red light or changed lanes without due care. Sounds a bit like a dream come true.

Will the dream extend to your Car insurance?

There is another reason to celebrate autonomous cars too – the chance of decreased insurance premiums. Let’s face it, if fewer cars crash, then there is likely to be less shared risk.

The day of the autonomous car is fast approaching, experts predict that by around 2035, up to one-third of cars are likely to be driverless.

Back to today, in underwriting risk, insurance companies may start to see benefits from the increasing numbers of autonomous features starting to filter into road cars. Autonomous Emergency Braking, for instance, applies the brakes automatically when it senses an impending crash, leaving little room for driver inattention to cause any damage.

Interestingly, as technology progresses, some risk is likely to be carried by car manufacturers. If a system goes wrong, the car owner or driver is less likely to be deemed to be at fault.

Volvo, for instance, is working on a system that recognises deer, elk and caribou, but the system struggles with kangaroos, this could cause a liability headache for the company if one of its vehicles is involved in one of 16,000 annual kangaroo strikes in Australia!

Not a problem for most Singapore drivers, admittedly.

Volvo - a company renowned for its safety systems – is forging ahead with research and development, and has affirmed a target that nobody will be killed or seriously injured in a new Volvo by 2020.

If that target is achieved through passive safety features (airbags and seatbelts that save you after a crash) and active ones (any system that helps prevent a crash), that’s good news for every road user. You would be less likely to be hit by a Volvo, and you’d likely share in the benefits of the lower risk of insuring Volvos.

That’s a win for everyone.

Whatever the future holds, you can be sure that with Budget Direct Insurance, you will be ready to navigate the road ahead.

For more motoring news and tips, look out for regular posts in this series.

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