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Self-Driving Cars: Consumers Warming Up to Insurance for Autonomous Technology

There’s no question that self-driving cars will be a major disruptor. Despite the fact that autonomous vehicles (AVs) are still more than a decade away from appearing in showrooms, federal and state lawmakers are scrambling to regulate the testing of autonomous technologies on public streets. Moreover, consumers on the market for a new car are facing an array of safety/driver assist technologies, such as lane-keeping assist, emergency forward braking and so forth, developed in the race to AVs and available on a number of today’s models.

Apparently, the wave of AV influence has reached the auto insurance industry, as well. Recently released, the J.D. Power Pulse Survey on Automated Vehicles and Insurance revealed that a growing number of consumers would consider switching insurance providers to gain automated vehicle-related discounts. That is, an insurance provider offering discounts based on safety/driver-assist technologies.

Something like pop-up surveys, J.D. Power Pulse Surveys aren’t annual bench-mark studies, such as its Initial Quality Survey, but a snapshot measure of consumer attitudes and intentions regarding a specific topic at that moment. More than 1,000 consumers responded to this survey in May 2018. The results indicate consumers are slowly warming up to the idea of self-driving cars.

Next Vehicle

Although there are still plenty of industry watchers out there who don’t believe we will ever see fully automated vehicles, AVs seem inevitable at this point. To date, there are several highly-automated vehicles already in showrooms offering all manner of safety/driver assist technologies. When asked if they were likely to consider a highly-automated vehicle for their next purchase, 22 percent of survey responders answered "yes."

Top 3 Buying Reasons

Fewer accidents: 26 percent

Less driving stress: 24 percent

Lower insurance premiums: 15 percent

Vehicle Insurance

Although the 22 percent willing to consider a highly automated vehicle isn’t exactly a tsunami of consumers, it’s a healthy piece of the pie for an area of technologies that basically popped up in the last few years. Whether or not the bulk of consumers are ready to choose a car based on its suite of safety/driver-assist technologies, the majority (70 percent) expect insurance providers to offer discounts for those technologies. Furthermore, 40 percent are willing to change their insurance provider to one that does offer those discounts.

What It Means to You

At this point, there are things we simply don’t know. As safety/driver-assist technologies become standard equipment (emergency forward braking will be standard on every 2019 Kia Optima and every all-new 2018 Nissan Kicks), we don’t know if savings through fewer accidents will outweigh the cost of the technology. That’s a key factor in determining the cost of an insurance premium. We will need to wait to see what insurance providers figure out. In the meantime, though, roughly 15 percent of consumers are buying into automated technology with the expectation of lower insurance premiums. We’ll see how that works out for them.

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Russ Heaps
Russ Heaps is an author specializing in automotive, financial and travel news. For nearly 35 years he has covered the automotive industry for newspapers, magazines and internet websites. His resume includes The Palm Beach Post, Miami Herald, The Washington Times and numerous other daily newspapers through syndication. He edited Auto World magazine, and helped create and edit NOPI Street... Read More

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