Social Issues Slow Autonomous Vehicle Introduction

Autonomous vehicles
Self driving vehicles may be ready to hit the road long before key issues are worked out. (Photo: Ford)

The driverless future is still a decade away says Quadrant Information Services CEO.

Although autonomous vehicle technology is advancing rapidly, social, regulatory and legal issues are creating significant speed bumps, says Michael Macauley, CEO of Quadrant Information Services, a supplier of pricing analytics services to property and casualty insurance carriers.

“Engineering is no longer the holdup in getting driverless cars on the road in large numbers,” he said. “As we’ve seen from announcements from companies such as Intel, Ford and Volvo—among numerous others—the technology is all but ready to go. However, society as a whole—the world in which these vehicles will have to operate—is moving more slowly, and will continue to do so until some important issues are addressed.”

A key issue is security. More specifically, the ability to protect the complex computer systems that control autonomous vehicle traffic from hackers.

Another major issue is insurance. Macauley noted that “to properly insure these vehicles and the people in them, carriers have to understand the risks involved. On the one hand, autonomous vehicles hold out a real hope for improved safety. The vast majority of wrecks—including those with fatalities—are the result of human error, which can be removed from the equation. On the other hand, some aspects of the technology—especially the potential for hacking—make risk evaluation very difficult.

“Just based on what we know now, I think it’s clear that autonomous vehicles are our future. But widespread adoption will be delayed by at least a decade—or however long it takes for the tech community—which hasn’t always been particularly empathetic to collaborating with policymakers, regulators, insurance providers and consumer advocates in addressing the significant social, regulatory and legal challenges that autonomous vehicles will create.”

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