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How will autonomous cars affect auto insurance claims?

Self-driving cars are quickly becoming a reality. When they hit the road in significant numbers, what will be the effect on auto insurance and accident claims?

A recent article published in Claims Journal, an insurance industry website, discusses some of these issues. Though many of the legal and financial effects of the shift to self-driving cars remain to be seen, it is certain that autonomous vehicles will have a significant impact on our personal lives as well as on insurance rates and auto accident claims. The article is worth reading in its entirety, but here are some of its most important conclusions:

  • Self-driving cars will significantly increase both personal and work productivity.
  • The number of motor vehicle accidents will decrease.
  • The defendants in auto accident lawsuits will change. Rather than going after drivers and their insurance companies, plaintiff personal injury attorneys will target vehicle manufacturers, software companies, producers of vehicle sensors, and subcontractors of those parties.
  • Accident claims will grow much more complex. Expect much more subrogation claims, as the parties try to shift liability to others in the vehicle production stream.
  • The possibility that hackers could take control of vehicles is real. This could lead to increased auto theft by hackers, as well as hacker-caused auto accidents.
  • The auto insurance adjuster profession as it exists today could become obsolete. Rather, there will be product liability adjusters who will need a much different skill set than traditional auto insurance adjusters.
  • Self-driving cars will cost a great deal more than today's cars. This could result in an increase in shared ownership of vehicles and use of car sharing services such as zipcar and Car2Go.

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