Liability is often seen as one of the Achilles heels for driverless cars: Even if they are vastly safer than human-driven cars, any accident could lead to huge claims. Many fear that this may make it difficult for obtaining an insurance policy for autonomous vehicles.
Current autonomous car prototypes already operate in various countries in test mode and for them the issue of obtaining appropriate insurance is very real. We have just learned that the German MIG (‘Made In Germany’) prototype driverless vehicle which currently roams the roads of Berlin is being insured by HDI Gerling Industrial Insurance for damages of up to 100 Mio Euros. HDI Gerling, a subsidiary of the European Talanx insurance conglomerate, may thus have become the first insurer worldwide to insure a driverless vehicle.
Of course this policy is for test driving only and requires a backup driver behind the wheel who is able to take over from autonomous mode at any time. Nevertheless, the policy shows that insurance companies are beginning to take notice and marks another step forward in the push to market for driverless vehicles.
The fact that the Autonomo team (directed by Raúl Rojas) developing the prototype was able to secure a policy for its car shows that the huge claims problem may be over-rated: Insurers world wide are experts at calculating risk. They will not shrink from insuring autonomous cars. Once their safety has been tested and certified they will most likely be glad to insure autonomous cars. The cars will pose much lower risks than human driven vehicles but – at least initially – the insurers will be able to over-emphasize the huge claims problem and command very healthy premiums, making this a very profitable business.