A Nissan driverless concept car from the Consumer Electronics Show in January (Bloomberg)
Driverless cars are getting closer to a reality worldwide. Some estimates have 10 million vehicles on the road by 2020 with some sort of autonomous component.
With the technology nearing maturity, the impact on the insurance industry is starting to shape up. This week, the UK announced plans to define liability in driverless car accidents in order to clear things up for the insurance industry in that country. Nissan is planning to test autonomous cars in Britain later this year..
A single insurance product will be available to cover a driver when a vehicle is being used conventionally, as well as when the car is being used in autopilot mode, the transport ministry said in a statement.
In the U.S., things are unlikely to be so cut-and-dry. On the federal level, driverless cars are subject to some regulation, but little of it is specific to insurance because insurance is largely regulated at the state level. Six states have passed legislation related to driverless cars, according to the Insurance Information Institute.
But in fact, most of the discussion around insurance and driverless cars in the U.S. has been on the potential wholesale changes to the industry. And the speed of innovation on the technology is creating uncertainty as well.
"The next decade is going to be interesting with different levels of autonomy on the road," Marik Brockmann of CSAA Insurance Group told INN last year. "We see companies talking about ... full autonomy."
In fact, Farmers' Mariel Devesa added, "you see a lot of people pushing towards full autonomy because the middle has a lot of challenges."