The thought of autonomous cars is an exciting prospect for the auto industry, but it will create some headaches for insurers if and when these vehicles are allowed on the road.

Determining fault

Since there are different levels of "autonomy" available, determining whether or not a driver was actually in control of the vehicle will be key to determining who is at fault in an accident. Despite laws that require a licensed driver be behind the wheel and paying attention to what is going on around the vehicle, the reality is that even without autonomous options, drivers are busy talking on phones, texting and engaging in other activities that pull their eyes and attention off of the road.

There have been discussions about manufacturers taking responsibility for crashes caused by their autonomous vehicles, but in some cases, the owner could be responsible for failing to download important updates in a timely fashion. After the Tesla crash last year, the company remotely sent updates to all of its vehicles to help alleviate a similar situation in the future, so manufacturers understand the value of keeping software current.

Want to continue reading?
Become a Free PropertyCasualty360 Digital Reader

  • All news coverage, best practices, and in-depth analysis.
  • Educational webcasts, resources from industry leaders, and informative newsletters.
  • Other award-winning websites including and

© 2024 ALM Global, LLC, All Rights Reserved. Request academic re-use from All other uses, submit a request to [email protected]. For more information visit Asset & Logo Licensing.

Patricia L. Harman

Patricia L. Harman is the editor-in-chief of Claims magazine, a contributing editor to, and chairs the annual America's Claims Event (ACE), which focuses on providing claims professionals with cutting-edge education and networking opportunities. She covers auto, property & casualty, workers' compensation, fraud, risk and cybersecurity, and is a frequent speaker at insurance industry events. Contact her at [email protected]