Self driving cars

Published on Sep 27, 2019

How many hours do you waste sitting in traffic or just driving on a daily or weekly basis? Let’s face it the actual act of driving is a waste of our time, okay there are some nice roads where driving is fun and a thrill, then there are all those laws and moral dilemmas.

When driving to your destination why do nothing when you could spend your time catching up on emails, watching a film or even reading a book on your journey, this is the dream of self-driving cars. The cars are actually available now as you may know but the technology is only available in localised areas and only in certain countries. Global self-driving cars won’t be too far into the future, maybe within a decade or maybe slightly more?

There’s a lot of chat and media attention surrounding self-driving cars and the technology, venture capitalist are investing billions of dollars into the cars and the companies who are developing the software. The self-driving cars are set to change the way we all commute, although there still seems to be some grey areas around what we will be able to do while the car is in control and driving, after all the car will be controlled by an Ai. Also, there’s not a lot of discussion from the companies who are building the cars and developing the technology about who will be responsible if and when an accident occurs? Who should take out the insurance, the driver/passenger or the car companies maybe both? If an accident does happen and the car is in self-drive mode the Ai is or should be in control of all decisions. Have you heard of the trolley problem? If you don’t know what the Trolley problem is here’s a link.

When you hear about self-driving cars in the media or from the companies all you seem to hear is how the cars will revolutionise our everyday travelling and how the technology will reduce traffic and accidents. I have no doubts that the cars will be safer than human drivers and I have no doubt the cars will reduce congestion. But I do have concerns about the lack of talk from the car companies about the Trolley problem or how insurance will work. Will Ai self-driving cars be safe around human drivers? The Ai powered cars can be communicating with one another whereas human drivers are completely independent and human drivers are unpredictable whereas self-driving cars will act in more of a predictable manor, this will surely affect insurance? For early adopters of self driving cars who will be a higher risk for insurers, the owner of a self driving car or a manual car?

If one self-diving car were to cause an accident due to a technology failure or due to weather conditions (a Trolley Problem example) who would be at fault, the driver or the car? What would happen if the accident caused a death? Would it be the Ai companys’ fault? If so all car companies will have to be insured and if this is the case will the car manufacturers become their own insurance company? They built the software and the cars therefore the manufacturers know how the Ai will respond in situations they will know this better than any insurance company. In a world where there is both human drivers and Ai drivers and there is an accident and the self-driving car is not at fault in the accident but the car was driving independently (Ai) then the liable party must be the third party as the Ai would surely never break the law or act carelessly? So, now are all human drivers who get into an accident with an Ai at fault? Maybe all drivers should start using dash cams when self-driving cars become a common part of driving?

Another scenario, you’re sitting in your luxury driverless car in slow moving traffic in a busy city center and the human controlled car in front suddenly stops and you/the Ai hit the car, luckily no one was injured. The accident caused minor damage to the third party car not a lot but enough to demand a rear bumper repair, who is at fault? Remember you were not driving, you would argue if you were manually driving you would not of hit the third party car in front you. Who’s going to pay for the claim, the Ai car manufacturer or you?

When there’s an aeroplane accident there’s an enquiry into how the accident happened with both pilot and the manufacturer of the aeroplane, will this be the same for self-driving cars? Will the Ai developer(s) along with the car manufacturer be under review when the accident accrues? Or will it all fall on the passenger – The Pilot? The cars are controlled by Ai software which was created by a human who wrote the code and trained the Ai, so did the developer(s) choose how the Ai should respond in the situation or did the Ai choose the outcome independently? Why doesn’t the owner of the vehicle decide how the car should response in given circumstances?

Let’s suppose when you purchase a new or old self driving car you have to select how the car should respond in certain situations similar to the 13 MIT Trolley Problem scenarios and how the weather should affect the self driving car and the decisions the Ai makes. The insurance could be based on your selections, would this be fair? Or should all the responsibility be on the car manufacturers? If a car manufacturer used a third party to develop the technology how will this affect the insurance?

What if this was say BMW or Tesla?

Boeing is one of the biggest and well established companies in the world their auto pilot software probably cost millions to build and has gone through millions of miles/hours of use and they still have had unpredicted issues. Air travel is a lot safer than driving and air travel is not fully automated and controlled by Ai so, what regulations will the car manufacturers be under and how will this be tested?

There’s a lot of questions in this blog without answers which I feel reflects how there is a clear need for both creators of self-driving cars and insurers need to come together for transparency on who is responsibly. Personally, I would prefer to choose how the car should respond in certain circumstances Vs how car manufacturer and a developer(s) has chosen how the car will respond, if this is the case then how will the passenger be liable?

Some extra articles....

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Posted in Insurance AI Blog on Sep 27, 2019