Shani Dion-Thibaudeau

By Shani Dion-Thibaudeau

February 13, 2017


Autonomous Cars and Car Insurance

Article revised on 22 September 2017

Autonomous vehicles have been making headlines over the past months. These vehicles are not taken from a science-fiction novel. You might see them making their way down your street in the very near future. How will they affect your car insurance?

Our expert Pierre Duchesne, Personal Insurance Coordinator at La Capitale General Insurance, answers some questions on the subject.

What is considered an autonomous or semi-autonomous vehicle?

An autonomous vehicle can get from point A to point B without a driver. These types of cars aren’t available yet.

A semi-autonomous vehicle includes different driver assistance systems, but still requires human intervention under some circumstances. There are vehicles on the market with automated driving. However, driving can only be automated under optimal conditions. And there must still be someone behind the wheel in case a driver needs to intervene.

We’re also seeing a lot more vehicles that are equipped with driver assistance devices. These include devices for detecting blind spots, staying in your driving lane, emergency braking and automatic parking, which allows you to parallel park your vehicle without even touching your steering wheel.

They say these vehicles will be safer and reduce the risk of human error. Do you think there will be fewer accidents on the roads?

That will depend on how autonomous the vehicles are. We’re just starting to see vehicles with some driver assistance capabilities on the market now, so we won’t see any results in the short term. In time, there will be more autonomous cars available, which should reduce the number of accidents.

According to estimates published in the Journal de l’assurance, if 10% to 20% of vehicles on the road were autonomous, safety would be notably improved and the number of accidents would decrease.

How will it affect car insurance?

There is no immediate impact because the vehicles are not fully autonomous. Industry committees have been created to deal with issues stemming from the arrival of these vehicles.

But it’s safe to say that autonomous vehicle equipment will likely increase repair costs in the event of a loss.

Will the concept of fault in an accident be handled differently?

It might be, but the consumer won’t see a difference. Insurers will continue to settle claims like they always have and will manage any possible recourses later.

In accidents involving autonomous vehicles, can the manufacturers be held liable instead of the drivers?

To hold the manufacturer liable, you would have to clearly demonstrate that the automated driving system was at fault resulting in the loss. We can assume that manufacturers will attempt to limit their liability. In all cases, the consumer isn’t affected because the insurer will settle the claim and, if necessary, take legal action against the responsible parties.

Do Canadian winters present a challenge for the arrival of autonomous cars on our roads, since these cars are equipped with many cameras?

Obviously, Canadian winters make it more of a challenge for autonomous vehicle manufacturers. We can assume that under certain winter conditions, it will take some time for the vehicles to be entirely autonomous. Only time will tell!

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