Adrian Flux, a British insurance company that has long specialized in hard-to-insure vehicles, now specifically covers driverless features, beginning with today’s stalwarts, like automatic braking and extending to tomorrow’s, like lane changing and self-navigation.
It's one of the first concrete steps the insurance industry has taken to address a world in which accidents may be rare, damages low, and insurance policies inexpensive.
The Norfolk-based insurer’s policy covers any faults that might affect the manufacturer’s software, outages in satellite service, and attempts by hackers to vandalize or commandeer a car. It even covers such seemingly human errors as failing to install a software updates within 24 hours of being notified of their availability and failing to manually override the car’s software when it’s about to make a mistake.
That last proviso may be of particular importance during the long transition from cars driven purely by hand to those driven purely by machine. The one accident in which Google’s car has been found at fault involved a decision by the car’s supervision driver not to override the software when a bus was approaching from behind. The result was a metal-rending scrape, but one that hurt nobody.
You may be wondering about the company’s name. It has no electronic meaning, having been founded in 1973 by a man named Adrian Flux who’d had trouble getting his kit cars insured. He expanded to offer car insurance to disabled people and other consumers to whom traditional insurers had given scant attention. The company notes on its corporate timeline that in 2010 it acquired another such insurer, adding powered wheelchairs to its menu.
Philip E. Ross is a senior editor at IEEE Spectrum. His interests include transportation, energy storage, AI, and the economic aspects of technology. He has a master's degree in international affairs from Columbia University and another, in journalism, from the University of Michigan.