Skip to main content

First Self Driving Car Fatality: How Does This Affect Us All?

By July 12, 2016October 6th, 2020Insurance

In May, one of the first to ever record himself in one of Tesla’s new self-driving vehicles has become the first human fatality of the autopilot feature. The victim was named as 40-year-old Joshua Brown whose name was not released upon an announcement from Tesla. Tesla was quoted saying he was a “friend to Tesla and the broader EV community.” Brown’s death will undoubtedly bring a focus to this new feature that the auto industry is so eager to conquer with the likes of Apple, Google, General Motors, and Ford all testing self-driving cars. Oddly enough, the push to bring this feature to a main street near you is with the mindset that it will likely reduce car accidents, most which are caused by human error. But how would this affect the average consumer? If you own a car, odds are you purchase insurance so this could affect us all drastically. The auto insurance world has been changed quite a bit thanks to the likes of Uber and Lyft, but a ride sharing program has a fairly straightforward solution. The oncoming conversion to self-driving vehicles may be a tougher problem for the insurance industry and legislators alike.

In insurance, the topic of liability is usually a topic of interest. If I drive my car through the Taco Bell front door the chances that I am liable is most likely guaranteed. Now what if Tesla’s auto pilot program drives my vehicle and me through the front door? Presently, the answer is unclear. It’s estimated that 10 million cars will be outfitted with the self-driving feature as soon as the year 2020. If this really is the wave of the future, time is running out to come up with a solution to the issue with liability.

For most of us, the liability coverage accounts for a large chunk of our insurance bill. Repairing damage to your own vehicle is small compared to the risk of court fees or hospital bills when you injure another individual. If liability is completely taken out of the equation, the obvious outcome would be for personal auto insurance premium for owners on self-driving vehicles to dramatically decrease. But, at that point, who shoulders the bill for liability? As the world is seeing with Joshua Brown, not even a computer is 100% full proof. The general theory is that the liability would be passed to the car manufacturer. Insurance costs being passed to the auto maker isn’t necessarily good for the consumer. If the car manufacturer has to take on that additional cost, they may make up for it by increasing the cost of the vehicle.

If you have questions, ECI is always here. Call us for an Oklahoma City auto insurance quote.