State Farm Already Figuring Out How To Insure Autonomous Cars

Image courtesy of State Farm

If error by fallible human drivers causes 90% of car crashes, what will happen in the future when most or all of the cars on the road are autonomous? Insurance companies are already working on the answer to that question, and one of them, State Farm, had a few years’ head start.

The Wall Street Journal points out that insurance companies have generally supported major innovations in auto safety that we now take for granted, like car seats and seat belts. First they needed to understand how they worked and how they affected the likelihood and outcome of crashes.

That’s how the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety got started decades ago, and it recently expanded its facilities for crash testing. The people who work at insurance companies want motorists to avoid crashes: they drive too, and they’re not monsters. Yet they need to understand how new innovations affect crash rates and the damage to people and to vehicles, which in turn will affect their entire industry.

The WSJ spoke with the head of technology for insurance company State Farm, who makes research trips to learn about new developments in autonomous vehicles.

“We need to understand what the risk will look like, so we can understand the role we will play,” she explained.

Even now, artificial intelligence is cutting crash rates. No, not semi-autonomous systems like Tesla’s Autopilot, but crash-avoidance systems that serve as backup to humans’ own ability to avoid crashes and react more quickly than we do, like lane-change alerts and even cars that brake automatically.

State Farm Plans for a Driverless Future [Wall Street Journal]

Want more consumer news? Visit our parent organization, Consumer Reports, for the latest on scams, recalls, and other consumer issues.