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West Virginia Public Radio looks at safety, self-driving cars, insurance

The image of the self-driving SUV lying on its side went viral last week. The Uber vehicle had been in a in a collision with a car that was trying to make a left turn in an intersection. The impact had knocked the Volvo onto its side, creating a cringe-worthy image for the PR-conscious ride-share company struggling to get its autonomous fleet of SUVs approved.

As you undoubtedly know, self-driving vehicles are touted as the future of transportation. Advocates say the computer-piloted vehicles will dramatically cut down on car accidents that cause injuries and fatalities. Many skeptics wonder if the technology isn't be pushed too far too fast.

Legendary investor Warren Buffett, whose Berkshire Hathaway owns insurer Geico, says that if and when autonomous vehicles become the norm, "it will hurt Geico's business very significantly."

In a recent report on self-driving cars, West Virginia Public Radio wondered "If humans aren't driving the cars, who needs a car insurance policy?"

After all, insurance rates are calculations based on geography, a driver's record and claims history, traffic tickets, and so on. Driverless cars might well shift the emphasis from individual owners of vehicles to the makers of the cars.

The staff actuary for a trade group for actuaries (those who analyze risk for insurance companies) says the idea pushed by makers of software and hardware for self-driving vehicles is that human error will be eliminated, making our highways, streets and roads safe.

He said that if human error is eliminated or drastically reduced, it would mean automakers "will be ultimately responsible for a lot of these future accidents when an automated vehicle is involved."

No one yet knows how the manufacturing and insurance businesses will sort themselves out, but we do know that far too many people are injured today by distracted, speeding, impaired and otherwise careless, reckless drivers. An experienced personal injury attorney can help you pursue maximum compensation for all damages.

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