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Customers Expect Insurance Discounts for Driver Aids, J.D. Power Says

But what happens if cars become fully autonomous?

Today’s driver-assist systems are supposed to reduce the likelihood of crashes (when they’re used correctly, at least), and drivers expect that to translate into lower insurance rates, according to a new J.D. Power Pulse survey.

Of those surveyed, 40 percent said they would switch insurance companies in order to get an “autonomous discount” for the driver-assist features in their current cars. In addition, 22 percent said they will consider a “highly automated” vehicle for their next purchase. Insurance ranked third in reasons why drivers switched to cars with more driver-assist features, behind lower risk of accidents and reduced driving stress.

Driver aids like adaptive cruise control and lane keep assist, along with systems such as Tesla’s Autopilot, that provide some steering assist, are often conflated with autonomous driving because they shift some of the workload away from human drivers. Some automakers also view them as stepping stones to fully-autonomous driving, although getting to that point is still a major technological and regulatory challenge.

Liberty Mutual has offered a discount to Illinois residents with Volvos equipped with the Swedish automaker’s City Safety driver-aid suite, but the insurance industry hasn’t responded to the proliferation of driver aids in a uniform manner. If customers were guaranteed discounts, it’s possible that they would adopt driver-assist features in greater numbers.

But what happens to insurance if cars completely take over driving duties? Because the majority of crashes are due to human error, self-driving cars could drastically reduce crash rates. That would theoretically make for very cheap insurance, but it’s also possible that most autonomous cars will be part of company-owned fleets, so individual users won’t have to worry about insurance at all.