I think it’s fairly self-evident that self-driving cars will experience fewer day-to-day accidents. Humans are strange, imperfect machines who experience a multitude of distractions. Cars won’t get drunk; they won’t fall asleep; they won’t be talking to their friends or on the phone; they won’t be worrying in the back of their minds about their job or kids. They will just drive.
I don’t disagree. But my point here is two fold, leading to a conclusion. FIRST, when human driven autos are fully robotic-assisted, the difference between the two may not be substantial enough to drive a change in insurance rates large enough to incent people to give up their vehicles.
Remember here, MOST people like to drive. That’s why the auto manufacturers spend so much time on the “driving experience”; their marketing data tells them this.
SECOND, robots may not get drunk, but they do suffer from networking interrupts and electronic malfunctions of various sorts. It is not true that a robotic vehicle eliminates all road disasters. Never will.
But in the course of reducing day-to-day risks, we are inviting the specter of mass risk. A drunk driver careening out of control and hitting a kid is tragic, but society still runs; a mass hacking attack causing accidents throughout a whole city at once can cause the city to grind to a complete halt. By making everything so connected — millions of cars dependent on the same software, on the same network — the risk of what is called a Black Swan increases dramatically.
This kind of risk cannot be inferred from day-to-day statistics. In all probability it cannot be measured in a scientific way. But it is no less real for that.
There are ways to avoid this of course: more careful security; make it so cars are not networked and therefore can’t be hacked from a distance; etc. I’d be a lot less worried about this if I believed that such measures were being taken, but of course they are not — because deployment is cheaper, faster. easier and more convenient without such things.
Kind of like voting systems. :-)