Archive for the ‘accident’ Tag

To Dashcam or not to Dashcam?   Leave a comment

Dashcam 3

One of my co-workers recently had a hit-and-run accident, in which the other driver pulled over briefly, saw the severity of the situation, and took off again. With no information about the other driver, my co-worker had to file the claim against her auto policy and pay her deductible.

The situation raised a question in the office that ultimately prompted several of us to purchase dashcams: “What can be done to protect ourselves against a hit and run driver?” While there is no perfect solution, a high-resolution dashcam is a great start.

Dashcam 1

The idea is simple enough to comprehend – with a high resolution video recording being created while you drive, all those crazy near-misses you experience while driving are recorded in great detail… and should you have an accident, most of the cameras include sensors that automatically lock the data for a length of time before and after impact is detected to prevent the video from being deleted.

But will a dashcam help? The answer is, unfortunately… it depends. It mainly depends on two factors – what happened, and how much information the camera captured.

Though most cameras provide high resolution and wide angle videos, they still only capture what happens in front of you – not much help if you get hit from the side or the back. While there are models that also include a rear-facing camera, that still leaves the sides of the vehicle unmonitored.

Dashcam 2

And, of course, the most important piece of the puzzle is whether or not the license plate of the offending vehicle is legible. That’s were the cost of the equipment can skyrocket quickly – not just in the camera, but also in the quality of memory card needed. For a high quality front and back camera with ultra-fast memory card, you could be looking at more than $200 … and if you have more than one vehicle that’s used regularly in your household, that cost goes up exponentially!

Ultimately, the choice to purchase and use a dashcam is very similar to choices you have to make while purchasing your insurance coverage: do you spend money up front to seriously reduce your financial risk down the road? Will the investment now protect you from headaches later? Unfortunately, it’s impossible to answer these questions with certainty, so it depends on your own tolerance for risk (vs spending more to pass that risk on).

Driverless cars – insurance for the future?   Leave a comment

Sammy driving

The Insurance Dogger isn’t sure if she’s ready to jump out of the driver’s seat just yet!

As you may have noticed, there is a lot of news coming out lately about driverless cars – Google is one of the main players in the field,  but Carnegie Mellon University made a big splash locally and nationally when it unveiled a very successful test-drive in the Cranberry area nearly two years ago.  A lot has been written in the last couple years about the various pros & cons of driverless cars, so I won’t rehash them here – a simple Google search will reveal just about anything you’ve ever wanted to know about the future of driverless vehicles.

However, as an insurance agent, one of the first things that comes to mind whenever the topic comes up is, how will the insurance policy, and the liability coverage in particular, function when it comes to insuring driverless vehicles?  This is not an easy question to answer, as there are many facets to consider, and much of it is based on speculation because the technology has not put forth a viable “ready for the public” option yet.

There are several legal considerations that, for the most part, I will set aside for now – primarily for the sake of expediency.  One of the big issues at hand is that, generally, each state has autonomy over how insurance laws & coverages are mandated.   I will address issues as broadly as possible, but the situation is still largely theoretical and developing as the technology progresses.

From an insurance standpoint, one of the largest liability concerns is the question of who is at fault (“liable”) when a driverless car is involved in an accident – is it the “driver” of the vehicle?  The engineering firm that put together the software operating the vehicle?  The manufacturer of the vehicle?  All of the above?  This is not an easy question to address, and seems to generate more questions than answers.  Was there an error in the software?  Was the driver able to manually override the vehicle and didn’t?  Did the steering system or brakes fail to receive or comprehend the instructions the software passed along?  Some of these questions will sort themselves out as the technology becomes more “concrete” and less speculative.  But the truth is, I fear, legal liability concerns will not actually be resolved until after the rubber hits the road and accidents occur.

Another concern along those lines is who is responsible for damages to the driverless car itself if it is responsible for an accident in which it gets damaged?  As above, should the software design firm pay for your damages?  The car company?  Are you responsible, as the owner of the vehicle?

A bit more disconcerting – what if your vehicle’s software is hacked?  If the vehicle is dependent upon mobile maps & directions to get from point A to point B, what if mobile/cellular service is lost?  How will the vehicles navigate, and in particular, how will it respond to the ever-changing conditions of roads and construction, closures, traffic, etc?

Lloyd’s of London published a market-watch article (along with its far more lengthy corporate report) about some of these very issues.  While the article isn’t conclusive, it does provide some key insights into considerations and factors at hand: “liability will be a key issue because autonomous and unmanned vehicles involve the transfer of control from direct human input to automated or remote control.  ‘In many cases the technology is there to create fully autonomous vehicles, but the legal and regulatory environment needs to be developed further, and public trust will also need to be fostered,’ says Maran.”

One thought I see being repeated consistently is that, ultimately, the increased safety offered by autonomous vehicles will rapidly outweigh the legal and insurance liability concerns: “Many of the routine claims that currently drive the cost of motor insurance will reduce or almost disappear entirely, explains Powell. The resulting decreased exposure for insurers would probably require underwriters to change the design and pricing of motor insurance products, he says.”

At the end of the day, because the technology is a relatively long way off, the “problems” of insuring driverless cars still bring up more questions than answers.  Regardless of the characteristics of the final product, the technology is coming, and the insurance companies that are able to quickly analyze and adapt to the new risks will be a huge step ahead of their competitors.

Some additional resources, reading, and even some videos to watch:

Insurance Information Institute study, Feb 2015

Wall Street Journal article, August 2014

Auto Insurance Center (undated)

CNBC / AllState CEO, Jan 2015

CNET / YouTube – great review of pros & cons of self-driving cars

Google self-driving car – A First Drive

Wall Street Journal YouTube article

CMU driverless car driven around Pittsburgh

Bill Shuster rides in driverless car

 

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