An insurance company in England has announced that it will offer polices covering fully-autonomous vehicles, a potentially key vote of confidence in the safety of “driverless” cars.
The company, Adrian Flux, appears to be the first in the world willing to cover driverless cars. The policies are only available to drivers in the UK, which already has some of the most permissive rules in the world for the use of autonomous vehicles on its roads, reflecting an effort to position the country as a leader in the industry.
“Unlike every insurance policy that you’ve ever held in the past, driverless car insurance needs to cover you against a whole host of modern problems, not just your typical bumps and scrapes,” Adrian Flux said on its website. “From faulty software and corrupted downloads, to patchy satellite coverage and firewall failures, your driverless car needs cover that matches the modern dangers that you might face on the road.”
Notably, the policy covers damage or loss “caused by manufacturer’s operating system failure or authorised software failure,” or “by satellite failure/outages that affect navigation systems.”
It also covers damage if a driver fails to avoid a collision or accident when using “manual override”of the car’s automated system.
In addition, the Adrian Flux policy covers damage to the vehicle resulting from the “hacking or attempted hacking of an operating system, authorised software or navigation system.”
Offering the policy carries risks, given that self-driving technology is still in its infancy, even if it is the subject of robust research and development on the part of Google, Uber and major automakers.
But the insurance company is also likely responding to research showing that vehicle automation — which has already been incorporated in newer vehicles in the form of blind-spot monitoring, forward-collision warnings and lane-departure warnings — has the potential to greatly reduce accidents.
While there are no fully-autonomous vehicles currently on the market, Tesla’s Model 3, with an autopilot function, is expected to ship in late 2017. The availability of insurance could further serve as a boon to the market.
Regulators in the United States are currently in the process of drafting regulations for self-driving vehicles, with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration soliciting feedback from automakers, tech companies, advocacy groups and the general public.
A patchwork of rules have emerged in a handful of states, with Nevada and California leading the way in allowing for the limited testing and use of driverless vehicles. Michigan, North Dakota and Tennessee, and Washington D.C. have also passed legislation concerning autonomous vehicles — and rules for insurance have typically been a key component of the proposed regulations.