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AI and Your Car — The Future of Autonomous Vehicles

It is exciting to consider the possibilities the future of the autonomous vehicle will bring to society. Speculating about how we might spend our time without having to drive during a long commute or road trip opens new doors — but we’re not quite there yet.

Self-driving cars make the news often and it seems Tesla is always top of mind with other competitors entering the market. But what does the future of autonomous vehicles look like? Read on to learn more about AI and your car and what you might expect in the future.


The Future of Autonomous Vehicles

Self-driving vehicles fit into six levels of autonomy:

  • Level 0 – No autonomy. The traditional vehicle you may have learned to drive on was likely a level 0.


  • Level 1 – Driver assistance. Drivers still must remain active and engaged, but features allow the vehicle to control some aspects of acceleration, braking, and steering, but not simultaneously. If your vehicle has adaptive cruise control, you have a level 1 autonomous vehicle.  


  • Level 2 – Partial automation. Vehicles are able to steer, accelerate, and brake under certain conditions. The driver takes over for some maneuvers and must remain engaged and monitor conditions.


  • Level 3 – Conditional automation. Under the right circumstances, the vehicle can handle most driving situations. A driver remains ready to take over if necessary. The vehicle can request the driver resume control when conditions warrant human intervention. This is the highest level of automation available to consumers currently. Remote parking assist and traffic jam assist are some types of functions with this level of autonomy.


  • Level 4 – High automation. Under this level of self-driving capability, the vehicle can drive itself fully, but a human driver may take over in certain conditions. For example, a driver may handle poor weather conditions or unexpected situations and the self-driving function takes over routine driving.


  • Level 5 – Full automation. A completely driverless experience, the level 5 fully automated vehicle of the future may not even resemble cars of today. Since the vehicle drives itself, current features we consider integral now to a car would be obsolete, like a steering wheel and pedals. The vehicle would handle all driving situations with Level 5 automation.


When you think of getting to level 5, the future of autonomous vehicles seems a ways off — but in reality, companies are already testing level 4 vehicles for consumer use. The true self-driving car may not be as far in the future as you may expect. Every state differs in regards to regulations, though, so a higher level autonomous vehicle may be available only in certain geographic regions until the rest of the states adopt updated regulations.


New Risks Introduced by Autonomous Vehicles

New Risks Introduced by Autonomous Vehicles

But with the rise of autonomous vehicles comes other risks and challenges. Consumer perception and insurance questions may be hurdles to acceptance of higher levels of autonomy.


Consumer trust

A significant hurdle in the adoption of level 5 fully autonomous vehicles may be consumer perception. How much do people trust robots in the form of self-driving cars? And would they be willing to put their family in a self-driving car? These are important questions to consider as the future of autonomous vehicles approaches quickly.

However, people are already familiar with some types of autonomous functions – and they use them often. Adaptive cruise control, lane departure warnings, and parking assistance are all examples of some type of self-driving assistance. Adoption of more advanced levels of autonomous vehicles could follow these examples as the technology becomes more mainstream.


Insurance for self-driving cars

The insurance questions for self-driving cars make it clear carriers will have to adjust their policies and definitions. If a person is no longer driving the vehicle or making critical driving decisions, how does that shift the insurance responsibility? It may mean moving to product liability rather than a traditional auto insurance policy covering the risks a specific driver brings.

And as vehicles move up the levels of autonomy to where drivers are doing less and less to control the vehicle, how will auto insurance policies respond to keep up with this shift? As an agent, your policyholders may ask you these questions as they explore their options. With the growing popularity of vehicles with some level of self-driving technology, more customers are likely to buy into the technology.


What’s Next?

Self-driving technology is poised to continue its rapid growth and development. With more of these vehicles available in the marketplace, adoption is likely to continue as well. Some early adopters want to be first in the market and to have the top-of-the-line technology in their garage. Other people like the technological development of companies like Tesla or Volvo’s Polestar and will support autonomous vehicles through their brand of choice.

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