California Now Permitting Self-Driving Cars For Public Testing

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  • In the past few years, a number of companies have developed self-driving cars that operate on computer navigation systems and have already been testing them on the open road. But now, it seems that the state of California is taking a greater interest in regulating that kind of vehicle use, and that could have a major impact on the auto insurance industry going forward. As this kind of testing becomes more prevalent – potentially in other parts of the country – it might be wise for insurance agents to start trying to educate their clients about the potential issues that could spring up as a result.

    In all, there are 32 million vehicles in California, but the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles recently permitted 29 self-driving cars for use on the state’s public roadways, according to a report from the Associated Press. Of that number, 25 are owned by Google, while two apiece are controlled by Mercedes and Volkswagen. What’s interesting, though, is that the state’s legislature actually instructed the DMV to do more to regulate this technology back in 2012, but little had been done in that time.

    What do these companies need to do?
    When it comes to actually obtaining the permits to operate these vehicles on public streets, the firms controlling them had to jump through a number of hoops, the report said. Test operators had to have spotless driving records, and complete training programs. Further, they had to insure all such vehicles for $5 million of property and personal injury claims. Meanwhile a few other states have passed similar laws, but experts believe that broader, national regulation of this portion of the driving population may still be years from being enacted.

    The fact of the matter is that this kind of technology is only likely to become more ubiquitous on U.S. roadways in the coming years and beyond, and as such the more insurance agents – and companies – can do to get out in front of the issue, the better off they and their customers are likely to be going forward. If agents can better explain to their clients – corporate or otherwise – the ways in which the use of such cars could affect their liability when it comes to operating a self-driving vehicle, there might be greater understanding of the issue overall.