While any fatality is tragic, only three deaths have resulted from self-driving cars in the US in the past three years. To put that in perspective, nearly 38,000 deaths occur in the US annually because of human-driving error.
What Will a Driverless Future Mean for Insurance?
There's still much to be done before self-driving cars will be released for public use on a large scale. Testing, prototyping and adjustments are expected to continue for another two decades. Haden Kirkpatrick, Esurance's Head of Strategy and Innovation predicts we'll see a 25- to 30-year "muddy middle," as we balance the presence of robot- and human-driven cars on the same roads.
Equally interesting to consider in this equation, as Kirkpatrick notes, is what self-driving cars will mean for the car insurance industry.
Consider this: The world's first car accident occurred in 1891, but the world's first car insurance policy wasn't written until 1897. That means for 6 doubtlessly crazy years, people were driving in their fancy new horseless carriages without a drop of coverage. Compound that with the fact that safety measures like stop signs, right-of-way, and driver training had not yet been invented, and you can begin to imagine the chaos of a world before car insurance.
Since the first policy was sold 121 years ago, car insurance has evolved from simple handwritten contracts to the high-tech global industry that it is today.
And just like the transition to "horseless" drove considerable changes in the early 20th century, the transition to "driverless" will likely mean big changes once again. Only this time, instead of creating the need for more personal insurance, the move to autonomous vehicles is set to drive the need for more commercial insurance as car manufacturers assume much of the risk for this new tech.
"It's doubtful that consumers are thinking about how AVs might change their car insurance needs at this point," says Kirkpatrick, "but the industry at large is already scoping for this transition and considering the best ways to evolve as Americans become even more mobile."
Esurance conducted an online survey in December 2017 through January 2018 of 1,057 U.S. vehicle owners, a portion of which included semi-autonomous driver override systems (lane keep, automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control).
Twitter data was gathered from February 17, 2018 through April 7, 2018. The analysis spanned a sample of 396,758 English-language posts.