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Thursday, September 8, 2016

How Google Hopes to Use Driverless Cars To Shift Personal Liability to Product Liability

By Guy Weismantel, Vice President of Marketing at Vertafore

Drivers will one day be able to nap, browse social media, or watch their favorite shows on their daily commute. The car of the future will allow users to enter a location into the vehicle’s interface and be whisked off to their destination. We already have front crash prevention systems, technology that allows cars to self-park, and if you're lucky enough to have a high-end model, you already enjoy a hands-free technology experience on the highway. Now Google Inc. is planning to roll out the first fully autonomous car in 2017.

Interestingly, Google recently killed off its car insurance comparison tools, which the company introduced only last year. According to Google, this was a result of the tools that weren't as successful as the company had hoped. But could there be another plan in the works? You bet there is! And I have an idea...

Google asked the United States Congress to create special provisions that would authorize the company to bring to market a vehicle with no pedals or steering wheel (Associated Press). If this bid is successful, it would mean that standard insurance coverage might be incentivized to shift from personal liability to product liability. Let that sink in for a moment.

Google isn't interested in consumers personal auto lines. Why? Well, they’re betting they can make more money removing humans from the driving equation than they would selling ads for insurance. And to be completely honest, that’s not a bad bet. Google is famous for “moonshots,” but with all of the other driverless car technology hitting the market, this is no longer farfetched. Google is already testing their driverless cars in Austin, Silicon Valley, and Seattle. They want to introduce this car next year.

If Google's bid to have special provisions created by Congress is successful, cars without steering wheels and pedals could become a reality, and in turn, a shift from personal liability to product liability would become advantageous.

Tim Bzowey, head of home and auto at RBC Insurance in Canada made a good point in his presentation at the Insurance Institute of Ontario’s annual At the forefront event saying, “The personal computer was going to eliminate paper,” Bzowey said during the presentation, titled When Things Don’t Go Bump in the Night: Our Future With(out) Auto Insurance. “It didn’t do a very good job of that. You have example after example of innovation and it creates new opportunities. So while one door closes, another one opens, and for me, it’s our willingness to grasp those new opportunities that come forward.”

The moral of the story is: The companies that fail to come up with innovative policies to cover the new technologies may soon find themselves struggling to keep pace.

Read more about Google's sunsetting of its comparison tools.

Vertafore delivers cloud-based insurance software and services that transform the business of insurance. With the largest customer-base in the industry, more than 20,000 agencies and carriers leverage Vertafore’s insurance solutions that are built on today’s most advanced cloud, mobile, and information technology platforms. Learn more and contact Vertafore.