Driverless Cars: The Future of Transportation and Its Impact on Insurance Litigation

Driverless Cars

Written by Charles Gluckstein, Partner & Lawyer

It is believed that by 2021, there will be 51,000 autonomous vehicles operating worldwide. With car companies promising that in our lifetime robot cars will be commonplace, what will be the impact of driverless cars on motor vehicle litigation? In this blog post, I will discuss the future of autonomous cars, the benefits and downsides, as well the changes we should expect in vehicle insurance.

Insurance litigation is constantly evolving.

As autonomous vehicles are brought onto roads, the nature of processing motor vehicle claims will see many changes from what we know today. Changes to expect are:

  1. collecting data and having forensics footprints to reference will become more and more paramount
  2. working with engineers and data specialists during the claims process
  3. preserving data and technology collected during the accident
  4. identifying who to sue, how to sue and how to manage the associated expenses will be far more complex

Insurers who underplay the importance of technology, or work on more on a pen-and-paper method, will have a difficult time down the road. For top efficiency and protecting their bottom line, integrating heavy technology research into the claims process and hiring in-house data specialists will be a must if insurance companies are looking to stay relevant and effective at their job.

More data means more answers, faster.

Following a motor vehicle accident, pulling from instantaneous data will make all the difference for MVA victims. Faster diagnosis, clearer results and earlier access to rehabilitation will improve the overall recovery and healing process of those who have been victim to an MVA. Healthcare professionals will be able to use data collected from the accident itself to provide a better standard of care for those who were involved in motor vehicle accidents.

Autonomous vehicles are not as far away as we think.

When we think of fully self-sufficient cars, it can be difficult to define what exactly that looks like, and how it will affect our lives on a day-to-day basis. How is autonomous described in motor vehicles? This definition is broken down to 5 different levels.

  • Level 1: driving tasks are done entirely by the human driver.
  • Level 3: an autonomous driving system can be performed entirely by the vehicle; however, the human driver takes back control when requested.
  • Level 5: autonomous driving system performs all driving tasks in all circumstances. The human is solely a passenger in the vehicle.

Benefits of autonomous driving.

The benefits of driverless vehicles are determined by the level of automation in the car. Arguably, the biggest benefit comes down to safety. With autonomous cars, the element of human error which causes motor vehicle accidents is significantly reduced. Additional benefits include:

  1. roads are made safer with fewer collisions
  2. fewer vehicles on the road means fewer accidents
  3. productivity is increased as commute time can be spent doing other tasks, rather than paying attention to the road

Downsides of autonomous driving.

Many industries will be highly impacted by driverless cars. Particularly those who drive for a living, these changes would completely change, or fully eliminate, the jobs of those employed in the industries of:

  1. transportation: truck drivers, taxi drivers, bus drivers
  2. insurance and legal
  3. safety: traffic and police, tow truck drivers
  4. and many more...

The adoption of self-driving cars is also suspected to make liability arguments more complicated when taking out a suit following a motor vehicle accident. When there is no human driver involved in the accident itself, who is truly to blame for the accident, and who must pay for the consequences of said accident? This will be much more difficult to determine.

What the future holds…

2018 has had some setbacks in the adoption of self-driving cars by some companies. Uber, for example, suspended its testing of self-driving cars in March— including in Toronto — after a fatal pedestrian crash involving an autonomous vehicle in Arizona. The biggest question moving forward is whether Canada will be able to keep up with regulations needed in the face of driverless cars. Britain and New Zealand are leading internationally for automotive vehicle regulations. These regulations also include barriers of what is and is not allowed for data collection and protection of drivers.

This blog post is based off of a talk presented by Charles Gluckstein and Kadey BJ Schultz of Schultz Frost LLP at the CIP Society Symposium West. Their talk was entitled, “Driverless Cars: The Future of Transportation and Its Impact on Insurance Litigation”.


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