Self Driving Cars On the Horizon

September 29, 2016, Kitchener, Ontario

Posted by: Robert Deutschmann, Personal Injury Lawyer

Self driving cars are coming to the roads faster than many of us thought possible. The questions about disruptions to the economy and acceptance of them by consumers seem to being brushed aside by the promises of money savings, resource savings, lower insurance rates, and lower death, personal injury, and crash rates.

In preparation for the rolling out of the technology the governments of Canada and America are keen to avoid patchworks of regulations of jurisdiction to jurisdiction across the countries. Officials and manufacturers  tout the potential to improve passenger/pedestrian safety, accessibility and efficiency as the upside of the technology. If all goes as promised, then the autonomous cars should save money and time for everyone.

These updates of course, are anticipating fully autonomous vehicle production which is already underway, but which will be rolled out to the public further down the road. Eventually families will need fewer cars since the cars can operate without a driver they can take parents to work, then turn around and pick kids up from school and parents from school. We won’t each need our own car but can pool the resource, in theory among several people or families. Once they are widely adopted they should reduce traffic jams and save time and money for the millions of North Americans who commute to work daily. Autonomous cars are envisioned to look nothing like a car of today. They won’t have steering wheels and pedals. Your time in them will be absolutely free of driving responsibility.

The American Department of Transport issued a Federal Automated Vehicle Policy this month with four pillars:

  1. Vehicle Performance Guidelines with requirements for safe design, development, testing and roll out procedures for the autonomous cars before they are available for commercial sale.
  2. Policies for what responsibilities the states have in the licencing, registration, traffic laws, insurance and liability issues.
  3. Policies allowing testing of ‘non-traditional’ vehicle designs, and recall guidelines.
  4. Tools for ensuring safety of the vehicles.

Insurers have many issues to work out regarding the use of these vehicles (who is liable for an accident when a computer drives?), and they face a huge disruption to their business models when driving becomes so much safer and the number of cars is reduced. Canadian insurers have a massive business. According to the Financial Post last year, they underwrote $21.4 Billion in new policies last year.  The new technology is predicted to devastate the industry given that drivers will be eliminated.

“U.S. research firm Celent predicted in 2012 that, due to the rapid decline in claims, American auto liability premiums will decline by 20 per cent from 2013 to 2017 and then plummet another 60 per cent from 2018 to 2022 as safety technologies become increasingly advanced. Physical damage premiums will drop even more dramatically under the same scenario, by 30 per cent and 80 per cent respectively.” Financial Post,

The comparison is now being made to what happened to the record industry and the advent of music file sharing and iTunes. These are interesting times.

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Deutschmann Law serves South-Western Ontario with offices in Kitchener-Waterloo, Cambridge, Woodstock, Brantford, Stratford and Ayr. The law practice of Robert Deutschmann focuses almost exclusively in personal injury and disability insurance matters. For more information, please visit or call us toll-free at 1-866-414-4878.

The opinions expressed here, while intended to provide useful information, should not be interpreted as legal recommendations or advice.

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