When Google unveiled its “driverless car,” the world collectively caught its breath, then immediately began talking about how this innovation would change the planet. Skeptics believe that the driverless car is an unsustainable fad, while supporters view it as a paradigm-altering invention. Most of us just want to know: how can I insure one?

What Does A Driverless Car Do?
Driverless cars are not simply the science-fictiony vehicles of many popular television shows and movies. Real driverless cars offer several important functions to operators, namely parking and pickup ability. A driver can leave his or her vehicle on a crowded street and the machine happily goes off to find parking, a real boon for crowded city dwellers. When called on to do so, driverless cars can be sent to pick someone up, as well—either the driver, a child, a handicapped adult or anyone else who may need a ride.
Driverless cars may also cut down on traffic congestion by allowing closer proximity on highways and cutting down on speed-related accidents, particularly those that result from erratic speeds while driving. They could also eliminate the problem of distracted driving, an issue that leads to many car accidents each year.

How Does This Affect Insurance Companies?
Right now, Google’s driverless car is a phenomenon. If it ever becomes commonplace, however, insurance companies are going to have to completely rethink their position on insuring vehicles. Driverless cars simply cannot be assessed with the same risk factors as those that are driven by humans, for obvious reasons. Theoretically, at least, an accident in a driverless car is much less likely than one in a car piloted by a human being. That means that insurance rates should go down for driverless cars significantly. Almost the only risk involved with a driverless car is a computer malfunction.

However, it should also be assumed that not everyone will wake up driving a driverless car tomorrow. Therefore, there will be a transition period in which everyone is changing over to the new mode of transportation and there are both driverless and human-driven cars on the road. This promises to be a time in which both drivers who pilot their own vehicles and those with driverless cars pay top dollar for car insurance.

Another factor in the driverless car movement is the idea of free use of unowned driverless vehicles. Google’s actual vision is to put fleets of robotic cars in large metropolitan areas. Everyone would have access to these vehicles and no one would want his or her own car. If that becomes the norm, the days of the private car insurance company are limited.

Will Driverless Cars Really Become Common?
Even if only 20 percent of privately-owned vehicles are replaced by driverless cars, the impact on many industries, including the insurance industry, would be significant. However, we are currently a long way from a 20-percent adoption of driverless vehicles.

At some point, those who are interested in implementing driverless vehicles will need to decide exactly how that implementation will work and how they will balance the needs of those with privately-owned cars against those who want to share driverless vehicles.

Another thing to consider in whether driverless cars will become common is legislative concerns. There are already questions being raised about who should be allowed to “drive” a driverless vehicle: could children be trusted to operate these vehicles on their own? What about the blind or handicapped? Theoretically, anyone can operate a driverless vehicle but state legislatures may not be willing to allow just anyone to be responsible for the operation of a potentially dangerous machine, particularly if there are both driver and driverless vehicles on the road at the same time. This could also have an impact on insurance companies and how they assess the risks associated with these cars.

Will I Be Able To Insure My Google Driverless Car?
If driverless cars are allowed to enter the roadways any time soon, you will certainly be able to find someone to insure the vehicle. Insurance companies are competitive and will probably offer relatively low rates, at least in the beginning, to gain the business of driverless car operators. However, whether those rates will remain low or will increase after a few years is anyone’s guess. The ultimate insurance costs to insure a driverless car will depend on the reality of operating these vehicles on a day-to-day basis and how much the insurance companies must pay out each year in claims against driverless vehicle operators.