New Mobility

Will we still need our own car insurance in the future?

Insurance "to go", car subscription models and autonomous cars //next columnist Don Dahlmann asks himself: How will you insure yourself properly in the future if you no longer own a car but use car sharing, for example? 

It may come as a surprise to some, but ever since people have been on the move in some form or another, there has been insurance. In ancient Greece, there were so-called sea loans, with which you could insure your ships against various things. This happened around 500 years before Christ and since then these offers have existed in one form or another. 

It is in people's nature to want to insure themselves against risks. It is therefore no wonder that the first motor insurance policies came onto the market only a few years after the invention of the automobile. The first offer was made as early as 1899 and the first comprehensive insurance followed as early as 1901. However, these insurances ran on a voluntary basis. Insurance only became compulsory in 1939, after the number of accidents had risen enormously in the 1930s.

New forms of mobility

Little has changed in this regard to this day. If you want to own a car, you need your own insurance. But a lot is changing in mobility right now. The car system is under pressure and changing. Especially in the cities, the car is increasingly being pushed back. Registration figures in metropolises are falling because more and more people are choosing alternative forms of mobility. These include car-sharing cars or e-scooters. You no longer need your own insurance, because the companies provide the insurance at the same time.

The autonomous car will also find its way into our lives more and more in the next few years. And this raises the question of who is actually liable if you have an accident with it. This question is not so easy to answer and is the subject of negotiations and philosophical considerations. So far, only one thing is clear: if the car no longer has a steering wheel and no pedals, i.e. if it is always 100 per cent autonomous and a passenger cannot influence the way the car drives, then he or she is not to blame in the event of an accident. 


Fully autonomous, partially autonomous?

However, the liability issue is more difficult to clarify if the car is only fully autonomous at certain moments. This makes things complicated. If the vehicle is driving autonomously, then the manufacturer's insurance applies, if it is being moved by the driver, then that of the owner, or the driver of the vehicle. In the end, in the event of an accident, which insurance company will be responsible will probably soon be a question that will occupy the courts.

This is already the case in the USA. The manufacturer Tesla offers semi-autonomous functions in its cars. The small print states that the driver must always have his hands on the wheel and should always keep a close eye on the traffic so that he can intervene in an emergency. But the software marketed under the name "Tesla Autopilot" is of course used differently by users. 

Liability issues unclear

Accidents involving the manufacturer's vehicles have been increasing significantly recently. This is not only because Tesla is very successful and more of its products are on the road. Above all, it is the owners who give a little too much credence to the name "Autopilot". The amount of Tesla drivers who fell asleep at the wheel and whose cars then had to be stopped by the police is astonishing. Unfortunately, however, there are also accidents with fatal outcomes. 

It is mainly these accidents that then occupy the courts. Because in the land of damage claims, where millions are at stake, people like to try to sue a company. But the judgements that will presumably emerge in the next few years should also form a legal basis for autonomous driving. Which is urgently needed, because so far there have only been academic discussions on the subject. 


But in general, with the new forms of mobility, something is also changing in terms of insurance. If you no longer own a car, this does not mean that you no longer drive a car. Accordingly, the future of mobility will have to include insurance policies that are much more flexible than the previous model. The solution here is called "pay-as-you-drive".

This refers to contracts that run, but only become chargeable if you actually use them. In other words, you only pay for a route if you sit in the car and drive it yourself. If you are on the road for a few weeks without a car, the insurance does not cost you anything. This is not only practical for the insured, it is also reassuring, because you are always covered should an incident occur. 

Because we will not be without mobility in the future. The personal mobility mix will consist of owning a car, car sharing, using autonomous shuttles, e-scooters and other vehicles. There will also be accidents. Hopefully fewer in the future - but they will probably not disappear completely. 

Text: Don Dahlmann

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