Tesla founder Elon Musk: “I think we’ll be able to achieve true
autonomous driving, where you could literally get in the car,
go to sleep, and wake up at your destination.” He thinks it will
happen in about five years, eight or 10 if you consider how long
regulators will take to sign off.
Sebastian Thrun, developer of Google’s autonomous car, in
2011. “The car just drives itself. We drove 140,000 miles, and
people didn’t even notice.” He predicted then that automated
cars would double traffic capacity on highways, reduce commuting time, virtually eliminate the traffic jam, and reduce
traffic fatalaties to near zero.
Heck, this is me, writing in the middle of 2013:
“Of course he is not driving. The Computer
is. … Getting from today’s cars, which are
already pretty darn smart, to the
fully carefree highway won’t be
easy, although scientists and
engineers predict the day is
But could the dream
of driverless cars be a
nightmare for auto
implications for property-casualty insurers. Private passen-
ger auto is the largest property/casualty line. Direct-written
premium hit $180 billion in 2013, according to data from SNL
Financial—34 percent of all U.S. P/C business. Commercial auto
made up an additional $26 billion. Auto insurance is the beating
heart of the property/casualty business.
All that would vanish if a perfect computer were to take over
driving duties, so the logic goes.
(I picture the Dream Vehicle of the future as silver, with slender tail fins like the old Cadillacs had, and in my mind it doesn’t
make a sound. I hop in, select a destination, and the Dream Vehicle just glides down the highway, effortlessly avoiding all the
obstacles we bumbling humans cannot. It doesn’t seem to accelerate or decelerate. It just arrives at the curb, and its door
rises, like the one on Marty McFly’s DeLorean. I step out and,
embarrassed how safely I rode and how little I contributed to
the journey, I thank the Dream Vehicle. The perfect trip. Nothing can go wrong.)
NOTSOFAST Autonomous vehicles will challenge auto insurers, but they won’t obliterate them
By James Lynch
It’s fun to dream, and these days it’s fun to dream about a future
in which cars drive themselves.