Legislators Still Can't Agree on an Important Insurance Question for Self-Driving Cars

Andrew Koole
Oct 15, 2021 · 3 min read
Self-driving cars are almost here. Limited autonomous driving technology is already in many vehicles, from self-parking capabilities in everything from a Chevy Malibu to a Mercedes Benz, to the AutoPilot system available for $10,000 in any new Tesla.
But one thing continues to stop fully autonomous vehicles from entering the market, and it isn’t the progress of automakers—it’s the U.S. Senate.
While the House already passed a bill concerning privately owned self-driving vehicles in 2017, The Verge says that Democrats continue to hold up the complimentary bill in the Senate due to safety and liability concerns that they say the legislation doesn’t sufficiently address.
A Tesla SUV with self-driving capabilities parked with its doors open
Self-driving cars are getting more advanced every year | Twenty20

The question of liability

If you make a mistake while driving that causes an accident, you are liable for the damages or injuries resulting from the accident. In most cases, your car insurance covers the cost of whatever damages you caused to vehicles, people, or property.
The decision of who is liable in an accident usually ends up in the hands of the insurance companies covering the people involved. When they can’t come to an agreement, it goes to the courts.
But the issue of liability is more complicated for self-driving cars. If a fully autonomous vehicle crashes into another car or, even worse, into a pedestrian, who’s at fault, the driver or the manufacturer?
It might seem obvious that the automaker is at fault, but there are more factors involved than at first meets the eye. What if the owner of the vehicle had not taken sufficient care of the vehicle or properly installed necessary software updates?
A recent deadly crash involving a Tesla in AutoPilot mode, as well as an accident involving a self-driving test car owned by Uber that resulted in the death of a pedestrian, have increased focus on the issue.

The legislative roadblock for autonomous vehicles

Insurance Journal says the complexity of the liability issue has also increased because of a move by some manufacturers. They’ve lobbied to force consumers to submit disputes to binding arbitration rather than suing or forming class-action cases.
It’s with this part of the bill that Senate Democrats are taking particular issue. Five Senate Democrats, including Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), wrote a letter in response to the current bill stating that self-driving cars "should provide no less protection to occupants or pedestrians in the event of a crash" than their manually driven counterparts.

How the Senate’s decision could impact your car insurance

As the law adapts to regulate new driving technology, the insurance industry will need to adjust as well. Once the Senate decides how to answer the question of liability for self-driving cars, insurance companies will need to create new policies that align with the federal legislation.
Wherever the government, automakers, and insurance industry land on the issue, you can count on Jerry to find the best insurance to match your needs. Jerry compares prices and discounts in real-time, so you know you’re getting the most accurate, up-to-date options for coverage.

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