Self-Driving Cars: What Do They Mean for the Automobile Insurance Industry?

Technological changes are an unavoidable consequence of a thriving economy, and undoubtedly, the best way to cope is to simply adapt. Sounds simple, right? Perhaps, not so much.

Today, a number of vehicles on the road already have collision avoidance features, such as blind-spot detectors and front-end crash-warning systems.  The auto industry and federal regulators have also approved the implementation of automatic emergency braking within the next six years.  However, advancements like self-driving, or even semi-autonomous cars from companies like Telsa, Apple, and Google pose many questions, including when an injured driver pursues a claim against another for alleged negligence.

Consider an instance where an accident is caused by one vehicle’s computer glitch. Which driver is at fault for injuries sustained? Insurance companies do not currently write exclusions into their policies for software defects.  Moreover, less than twelve (12) states have enacted regulations addressing self-driving cars, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Importantly, however, New Jersey has adopted a system of laws commonly known as Personal Injury Protection (“PIP”) or simply “no-fault insurance,” which means that, regardless of who or what causes your automobile accident, your insurance company is responsible for your medical treatment expenses and possibly lost wages. Perhaps, then, New Jersey, and other states that have adopted this type of system, are ahead of the curve.  

While these advanced technologies may prove to one day drastically reduce the incidence of car accidents on the road, it is also important to take caution and recognize that the insurance industry, the automotive industry, and the Legislature need time to adapt. Armed with the knowledge that computer glitches, in addition to human error, may be the cause of accidents on the road, it is now more important than ever for drivers to be properly insured.

Insurance companies, as they have done with other automotive advancements, from seatbelts to airbags, collect data over time and adjust rates to reflect the consequences of those advancements. There is also the possibility that accidents involving autonomous cars lead to product liability claims, as opposed to personal injury claims, forcing liability laws to drastically evolve.

Our firm has extensive experience with automobile liability, and plans to stay diligently informed on these new and exciting technologies. If you have legal issues arising out of insurance coverage or are involved in an automobile accident, please feel free to contact us at (732) 545-4717.