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Are consumers, automakers and insurers really ready for self-driving cars?

Since news broke of the fatal accident involving a Tesla Model S that was on “Autopilot,” the media and various experts have been locked in high-speed Socratic dialogs on the pros and cons of self-driving cars.

To date, most questions have focused on three key areas:

  • Liability: Who will be at fault, and who will pay, if Mr. Robot gets into an accident?
  • The Technology: Is self-driving technology ready for the consumer?
  • The Ethics: How will the artificial intelligence controlling a vehicle make critical driving decisions, and who will program the AI?

Fast and facile answers

Although this latest debate is just underway, a consensus of fast (and sometimes facile) answers has emerged. But some of this “conventional wisdom” will need to be re-evaluated as new data and questions arise, as well as new solutions.

On the liability front, it’s widely agreed that the manufacturers of autonomous vehicles will probably bear the costs of accidents caused by defects or glitches in their robo-drivers. In fact, Volvo preemptively declared last year that it will pay for injuries or property damage caused by its fully autonomous IntelliSafe Autopilot system, scheduled to launch by 2020. The company’s reasoning? Its system will be so safe that no human will ever need to intervene and, therefore, no human could be at fault for an accident.

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