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October 5, 2021

Travelers report: Autonomous vehicles will likely be safer than human driving

Travelers cos. insurance HBJ File Photo The Travelers Cos. office in Hartford.

A new position paper from the Travelers Cos.’s public policy division is providing a glimpse into how insurers view and expect to handle a future boom in autonomous, or self-driving, motor vehicles.

The report, put together by the Travelers Institute and released Monday, argues that autonomous vehicles will ultimately benefit society by reducing the number of car crashes and crash-related injuries and deaths. How long it might take for those advantages to be fully realized, however, is not yet clear.

Other unknowns include the length of time it will take for autonomous vehicles to overtake standard, human-controlled models, as well as disruptions that could occur during the transition period.

The institute’s paper suggests existing auto insurance structures can accommodate the wide-scale introduction of autonomous vehicles and may provide consistency as certain consumers move from human-driven transport to self-driving options. Owners should be required to purchase and maintain adequate insurance for their autonomous vehicles, researchers said, whether it is a personal, ride-hailing or company-owned vehicle.

The Travelers Institute also said the insurance industry should take a leading role in discussions on policy-making and regulation concerning self-driving automobiles.

The promise of partially or fully autonomous vehicles has recaptured the public’s imagination in recent years as manufacturers such as Tesla and GM roll out cars with new self-driving capabilities.

A series of crashes involving cars using Tesla’s Autopilot function, however, has increased concern and skepticism around the technology, including from government regulators. In August, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration announced a sweeping review of the Autopilot system, a reversal after the agency cleared the driver-assistance system in earlier fatal crashes.

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