Computer says buckle up some of my friends drive like maniacs


The insurance industry is becoming increasingly nervous about the prospect of zero car accidents when driver-less cars eventually replace the old human driver versions. No accidents means no need for accident insurance and therefore the extinction of a profitable line of business for insurance companies.

But will this actually be the case?

Firstly, the obvious argument to this is that all software is written by humans and humans are prone to error. Therefore there will always be software errors and accidents.

Secondly, there are many companies involved in the battle for the driver-less car software. There will have to be an awful lot of agreement in the standards that those companies adopt, or else there will be incompatibilities in how driver-less cars interpret the behavior of other driver-less cars on the road. If there is not 100% agreement there will be accidents.

Lets face it if software companies can't fully agree on standards in internet browsers (and they still can't - we've all experienced those pesky java-script error message pop ups), they won't be reaching agreement on computer aided vision standards and which car has the right of way any time soon.

Thirdly, there will still be different models of cars with different acceleration rates. Software companies will have a demand for different styles of driver-less car software to suit the model of car and the preferences of the purchaser.

Some vehicle purchasers will opt for the software version that takes a few chances and gets the car to its destination as quickly as possible, within the applicable road regulations. Effectively, there will be a replacement of rev-head drivers with rev-head software. Other vehicle buyers will opt for the version that puts safety first and cautiously plods from "a" to "b".

It is inevitable though that machines will be better drivers than humans and there will be fewer accidents. However, as a result there will be a push for higher speed limits from consumer car owners who would like to reach their destinations more quickly, and from businesses who would like to deliver goods more quickly. It is likely that this push will be successful, particularly as an increase in speed limits would lead to an increase in GDP.

The result of all of this is that there will still be car accidents but they will be fewer as machines will inevitably be better drivers than humans. However, as a result of the higher speed limits that would be a likely consequence, when accidents do occur they will be more lethal and more costly.

Perhaps therefore the insurance industry need not be quite so nervous.

Computer says "buckle up!"

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