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Let’s face it, most of us are kind of bummed out that we didn’t get flying cars in 2015. And although we did get hoverboards, they have the unfortunate tendency to catch fire or explode randomly.

But, while the present isn’t as cool as Marty McFly made it out to be in Back to the Future II, we still have plenty to look forward to. Like self-driving cars, for instance. They’ve been all over the news lately with companies like Tesla, Ford, and Audi making waves.

There’s plenty to be excited about when it comes to driverless cars. But, there are lots of questions left to answer as well.

Like, will you even need to worry about things like temporary car insurance if you’re borrowing your friend’s self-driving car? Also, what exactly is a self-driving car? Let’s dive in and find out.

Person in orange with blue car and trees and sun in the background.

What is a self-driving car?

So, to start with, we’re nowhere near introducing a true self-driving or driverless car to the market. You know, the type where you get in, tell it where to go, recline your seat, and go to sleep for a few hours.

That doesn’t mean autonomous cars aren’t available to buy right now though. When we speak of autonomous cars, we rank them on a scale of 0 to 5. A car ranked 0 has no autonomy whatsoever.

But, if your car has cruise control or lane assistance, you’re technically driving a car with some autonomy. On a scale of 0 to 5, you’re driving a level 1 autonomous car. It might not seem like much, but these are the building blocks of what will eventually get us to level 5 on the scale of autonomy.

And what would a level 5 look like? Well, this will be a completely driverless car. Yup, the type where you can take a nap while it drives you to your destination. It likely won’t have a steering wheel or pedals at all, because humans won’t be able to “drive” it.

But, this type of car is still some way off. In fact, experts believe we won’t see a fully driverless car until at least 2030.

It’s likely that before we make the jump to level 5, we’ll need to contend with level 3 and level 4 cars. These cars offer more autonomy, and at level 4 are practically self-driving, but still require a human behind the steering wheel to take control when necessary.

So today we’ll have a look at how your driving experience and car insurance liability might change if you’re in a semi-autonomous car, where you can either operate the vehicle yourself or have it drive you for a portion of the journey.

Will you still need car insurance when you’re in a semi-autonomous car?

If you’re able to drive the car, you’re most likely going to need car insurance to drive it. But, car insurance is likely to change drastically when semi-autonomous cars are introduced.

These cars will allow you to switch between self-driving mode and driver mode, meaning there will be periods when you won’t be in control of the car at all.

You might not be responsible for any accidents that happen while you’re not driving. But, you may be liable if you rear-end someone while you’re in control of the car.

This presents a bit of a conundrum from a car insurance perspective. While you’ll still need car insurance to drive the car, the traditional model might not work with a semi-autonomous car at all.

Man with blue hatchback car with trees and the sun in the background

What will self-driving car insurance look like?

The way things work now is simple: you buy a car, get a few car insurance quotes, pick the insurance product that works for you, insure the car, and drive off.

But, if you’re buying a semi-autonomous car that can drive you places, this whole car insurance process might change. One popular theory suggests that your car might come with built-in car insurance already.

Behind the scenes, the car manufacturer might have partnerships with insurance companies that provide cover. You won’t have to look for quotes and choose an insurer anymore.

But, there are lots of other features that might be included with this built-in insurance. Here are just some examples.

Seamless liability switching

The car will be able to detect when you’re driving and when it’s in self-drive mode. This will allow it to correctly assign liability to you or the manufacturer depending on who’s “behind the wheel” if an accident occurs.

Automated claims processing

Cars are increasingly connected and bristling with tech such as black boxes and sensors that’ll instantly tell your insurer if you’ve been in an accident.

Insurance claims will be automated and handled in the background, with plenty of information handed over using information collected by the car.

This could make it easier (and fairer) to assess insurance claims. It’ll also save you time as there may be less need for you to contact your insurer to provide evidence.

Automatic diagnostics and help

Artificial intelligence could be able to assess damage to the car, look up car repair shops nearby, and even call roadside assistance on your behalf if the car needs to be towed. And, a self-driving robotaxi might come to collect you if you need onward transport.

Blue hatchback car with trees and the sun in the background

How could the driving experience improve if you’re in a semi-autonomous car?

Car insurance isn’t the only thing that will change if you’re in a semi-autonomous car. It’s likely that the built-in tech will make for a much-improved driving experience.

Well, duh, you might be thinking. But we don’t just mean the part where you let the car take over the driving when you need a short break.

Real-time tips to improve your driving efficiency and lower costs

The advanced telematics and built-in insurance policy might be able to offer you real-time tips on how to make your journeys more efficient, for instance.

The car might be able to provide information on your insurance and energy costs per mile, so you know exactly how much you’re spending and how to “lower” your costs should you wish to do so.

Software updates that provide an improved experience

Because the manufacturer can collect all of this information about your car, and cars like yours on the road, they can release software updates that’ll make your journeys even smoother, more efficient, and less expensive.

While currently, car upgrades are often expensive and invasive, the future trajectory of cars suggests that we might be updating our cars much like we update our phones nowadays, achieving better performance as a result.

Self-driving cars with built-in car insurance: An overview

When self-driving cars become the norm, car insurance may have to change significantly to accommodate these new technologies and the liability issues they present.

Self-driving car insurance could include features such as seamless liability switching and automated claims processing, which may come built into the car itself. Also, you might be able to make use of real-time tips on how to make journeys more efficient and cost-effective from an insurance perspective.

All in all, self-driving cars are likely to revolutionise not only how we drive but also how we insure our cars. And maybe, catch up on some sleep, or that box-set you’ve been meaning to binge!