If people were to say to you that sometime in the future car insurance might be seen as a thing of the past, the chances are you’d look at them with utter disbelief; yet that could be the reality if the movement for driverless cars continues to gain momentum and vehicles such as Google’s vanguard-riding self-drive models (or competitor’s variations on an autonomous theme) become a resident feature on our road networks.
Following on from recent news reporting that an increasing number of motor insurers in America are growing concerned about self-driving cars putting serious dents in their business – courtesy of severely reduced numbers of accidents – comes further evidence which could pave the way to significantly reduced (if not eradicated) car insurance premiums perhaps being just around a few corners away.
According to a new post by Chris Urmson, the director of Google’s self-driving car program, their pioneering fleet of 48 driverless cars have been involved in just 11 accidents since their inception, despite travelling an accumulative distance of some 1.7 million miles thus far. A stat which hints at an accident rate which depicts dramatic improvement over that of the comparable driven car.
For six years now Google has been quietly and efficiently evolving its autonomous car technology, yet has grabbed the headlines in more recent times as it’s taken its testing out onto public highways.
Indeed, this testing certainly hasn’t been conducted behind the closed doors of a top secret test facility, rather out there on the highways found in the same neighbourhood as Google’s California-based HQ.
Moreover (and since 2014) the company’s first genuine road-going prototype contender has managed to notch up in the region of 10,000 miles per week on these public roads, as Google steps up its desire to develop and successfully launch the world’s first completely driverless vehicle.
Vehicles, pedestrians and cyclists can be spotted by Google’s self-driving car sensors from a distance of two football fields away
In his post, Chris Urmson said of the 11 accidents that ‘not once was the self-driving car the cause of the accident’; which, as you can imagine, will send further shockwaves through the motor insurance industry as they re-examine their positions with a view to the foreseeable future.
Exonerating Google’s bespoke software of blame for any of these 11 recorded incidents, Urmson went on to explain that seven of the eleven ‘fender benders’ were caused by unavoidable human error, as a result of conventionally-driven vehicles careering into the rear of the autonomous Google prototypes. Accounting for the four outstanding incidents (three experienced in a Lexus RX450h crossover and the other in an Audi Q5) and according to records submitted to Californian authorities only two of these occurred while in autonomous mode.
All of which – while making for good reading for Google themselves, the pro-autonomous car lobby and of course the humble car insurance premium-paying general public at large – will not sit well with motor insurance policy providers worldwide.
Not with the revelation that so few accidents have occurred while the self-drive cars have been testing in real-time situations and locations, and suggests that insurers might well have their work cut out in the not-too-distant future trying to convince drivers that policies in their existing form and function remain relevant and justifiable, given the hypothetical prospect of so few instances of claims being required.