What you may or may not be covered for when using a self-driving car in South Africa

As car manufacturers are continually cranking up driver-assist features, we are quickly moving towards a self-driving future.

The World Economic Forum anticipates that assisted driving will improve the economic benefits of consumers by over $1-trillion over the next decade due to fewer accidents and lower insurance premiums.

Features such as advanced driver assistance could reduce collisions by 9%. This would result in consumers racking up monthly savings in the future thanks to lowered insurance premiums resulting from the overall reduction of accidents.

Apart from the economic benefits of enhanced driving features, a recent E&Y report found that around 900,000 lives could be saved through these technological advancements. In addition, autonomous vehicles could mean people spend less time stuck in traffic – thus reducing the risk of being involved in an accident.

Despite the positives, the self-driving model poses an interesting question for the vehicle insurance industry and how it assesses client risk, according to Vera Nagtegaal, executive head of Hippo.co.za.

“Where previously insurers priced their premiums according to a driver’s history – what happens when there is no driver?” she questioned.

“Questions around risk and liability will shift. If your car hits another car – are you liable for the damage caused?”

Nagtegaal says a shared manufacturer and owner model may be what insurers could look at when assessing the risk implications of self-driving cars.

“With this model, the manufacturer would assume all the risk related to software malfunctions that may cause accidents. The consumer would be responsible for other things such as the areas in which the car is driven or parked, what the car is used for, weather-related damage, and vandalism.”

“Self-driving cars also present a cybersecurity problem for manufacturers because, like any other computerized system connected to the outside world, they are susceptible to hackers,” Nagtegaal said.

“To mitigate this risk, manufacturers will have to take steps to insure their vehicles against hackers.”

“Theft would be an interesting risk to assess, especially during the claim assessment process, as a manufacturer would have to prove that the car’s system was not compromised in a way that made it easy for hackers to take control of a vehicle,” she said.

“The biggest challenge for manufacturers and insurance regulators will be to convince current drivers that self-driving cars will allow for safer and more controlled driving on the roads”.

Read: UK laws lay out how self-driving cars could work in South Africa

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What you may or may not be covered for when using a self-driving car in South Africa