March 6, 2014

In a couple of years from now, human driven cars will be very much a rogue minority, ducking and dodging in the ever-shrinking gaps between the ruthlessly efficient trajectories carved by a near-continuous stream of tail-to-bonnet robot vehicles.

Some argue that the complexities of unravelling exactly who’s to blame when robot-driven or partly robot-driven vehicles collide could yet hold back the advent of the autocar. It won’t. It hasn’t. Many functions once controlled by drivers are already handled by automated in-car systems. The rest will go the same way within a decade.

But, so long as there are RTAs, motor insurance will still be around in one form or another, won’t it? The problem is that accident rates could soon start plummeting alarmingly. Elmar Degenhart of auto parts firm Continental told the FT this week that the goal of reducing road deaths to zero through a combination of autonomous driving and safety systems “is no longer a utopian vision”. Ghoulishly, he confided to the paper: “We are convinced road accidents should end up as commemorative souvenirs in museums.”

This shouldn’t cause alarm for motor insurers, however, he argues, noting that insurers themselves have encouraged the introduction of safety features, offering discounts and so forth. “I can hardly imagine we will come to a point when we can do without [motor] insurance altogether,” he said, adding reassuringly: “I don’t think the insurance industry’s business model is threatened.”

The catch is that, if accidents hardly ever happen, premiums will inevitably plummet, killing the motor premium cash cow once and for all, and decimating the vast hinterland of accident related service industries that have grown up around the time honoured institution of the road traffic accident.

The time to act is now, Brothers, just say no to safety features, smite the robots wherever ye shall find them, before they bring our once-great sector to its knees!

Tal-Avitzur-Robots

 


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