Self driving cars are the new rage. Read any magazine or newspaper and you'll see at least one article touting the potential future of self driving cars soon to come to America's roads. Now, it's not certain and it could take longer or shorter than anticipated. Still, that's not keeping scientists, the press, and the general public from estimating such cars entering the market anywhere from 2015 to 2020. Some estimates even have the majority of cars sold becoming the self driving variety by 2030.
Google is perhaps the most visible of the new players aiming for the self driving car crown. They released a snappy video earlier this year showing off the potential of a project including an auto that drives itself.
Furthermore, the electric car company Tesla is also aiming to get into the market, showing off its own prototype of a self driving car and what it can do. Below is a video of such:
The Wave of the Future
Princeton University is even saying that it is not a matter of if the cars will make it to the market, but a matter of when. Their study says that such self driving cars "can replace 90+% of all cars on the road between 2025-2055+." The U.S. Department of Transportation's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, or NHTSA has also released a policy statement, saying that they will study the concept of these cars over a four year period ending in 2017. According to their new policy, the Administration seeks to avoid having the new SDCs "inadvertently impact current vehicle technology and that the testing of self-driving vehicles is conducted safely." This follows several states, from Nevada to California to Florida accepting tests for these self driving cars. The NHTSA has unveiled a five-tiered system to determine how autonomous a car is.
While the prognostications are all centered around the seeming inevitability of these new types of cars, it does not seem as clear cut how safe these vehicles will be and its affects on the current car and insurance agencies. Some questions are being asked, but not as loudly as need be. These include:
- What will happen if there is a major issue with satellite or cellular communication like a solar flare?
- What will happen if a driver needs to manually control the vehicle and get it out of danger?
- Will outdated maps truly be factored into the operating of the vehicle?
- How will insurance companies deal with the promise of almost no accidents? Will they spike premiums to make up for lost demand? Whill they slash the amount that they will pay out to victims of accidents to make up for the difference?
- Will auto makers completely zone out their manually operated cars in exchange for the self driving cars? What happens if people still want to buy the old fashioned type?
- Will the government eventually mandate that self-driven cars are too outdated or dangerous to be operated and make such operation illegal?
All in all there are more factors than answers right now. When facing the prospect of a radically shifted landscape on issues from insurance costs to personal injuries to auto accidents, there is much to consider and even more to test thoroughly before making the leap.