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Knowledge Center Items Update: Self-Driving Cars and the Question of Safety and Security

Update: Self-Driving Cars and the Question of Safety and Security

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As a leading MGA and wholesaler of personal lines insurance products, RPS is committed to keeping our eyes on the road as regulators continue to grapple with safety and privacy issues around self-driving cars. As companies such as Alphabet’s Waymo, General Motors and others race to deliver the world’s first driving business without human drivers, the path to autonomy is complicated and fraught with issues.

Self-driving vehicles from Uber Technologies Inc. and Tesla Inc. were involved in crashes that caused the death of a pedestrian (in the first known case of a person killed by a self-driving vehicle) and a driver using an assistance program touted as a precursor to autonomy. One of Waymo’s autonomous vans was also involved in a collision just this past May.

U.S. transportation regulators and others are deeply concerned over questions involving legal, safety and social issues as companies prepare to deploy self-driving cars for public use. A closed-door meeting in March involving U.S. Transportation Department (DOT) officials and industry, labor, and advocacy groups had many participants agreeing that it is “a question of when, not if, there is a massive cyber security attack targeting” autonomous vehicles and said “planning exercises are needed to prepare for and mitigate a large-scale, potentially multimodal cyber security attack,” according to the report. Law enforcement officials expressed interest in being able to interact with, direct, and potentially control autonomous vehicles during emergencies, the report said.

Meeting participants are also concerned, however, that the same pathways that enable police to stop a self-driving car could be exploited by hackers or terrorists.  “At the end of the day, policymakers likely need to answer 10 to 15 key questions,” Derek Kan, DOT’s undersecretary for policy said in March, according to the summary.  “These range from things like, how do you integrate with public safety officials? Should we require the exchange of data? What are our requirements around privacy or cyber security? And how do we address concerns from the disability and elderly communities?”  

Automakers and other participants in the autonomous vehicle industry have called for federal rules to avoid a patchwork of state regulation. However, the process of developing a federal legal framework for such vehicles has been slow moving.  DOT is expected to release updated autonomous vehicle guidance later this summer that could address some of the issues raised during the meetings.

In addition, in Congress, legislation to make it easier for automakers to get thousands of cars on the road without human controls is stalled and its prospects for approval are uncertain.

We’ll continue to keep you updated on the latest as the road to autonomous vehicles becomes a reality, including the insurance implications.

RPS provides a portfolio of personal lines insurance products, including coverage for high net worth individuals, difficult-to-place risks, such as coastal or vacant properties, and supplemental coverages such as stand-alone earthquake, DIC coverage, or Flood and Excess Flood insurance. Give us a call to discuss your clients’ needs.

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