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Driverless Cars Are Coming to University of Michigan

Imagine heading to the mall for some shopping and having your car valet you to the door, park itself, and pick you up when you’re done. It may sound far fetched, but driverless cars may be coming to Michigan sooner than you think.

The Mobility Transformation Center (MTC) at the University of Michigan has made it’s mission to solve the problems keeping driverless vehicles off the road. So far, Google and Honda have developed self-driving cars that can take passengers 70 miles per hour on an interstate. The challenge is in the city.

Autonomous vehicles in urban environments have to deal with pedestrians, parked vehicles, children, animals, and construction – all challenges to the artificial intelligence (AI) that steers the car down the road. Peter Sweatman, the head of the MTC, is working with automakers, State Farm Insurance, and other big companies to try and solve these problems using a “connected environment.”

How It Works

The driverless cars are equipped with two different kinds of sensors: one detects other smart objects like GPS, other self-driving cars, and smartphones. The other is a “visual sensor” that detects movement near the vehicle. Under Sweatman’s model, the cars would be getting signals from all around them:

  1. Vehicle to vehicle communication (V2V), where the cars report to one another where they are going and how fast.
  2. Emitters in railroad crossings will signal to autonomous vehicles when there are trains coming.
  3. If a pedestrian armed with a smartphone steps out into the crosswalk, that phone will let the vehicle know its location.
  4. Visual sensors detect other kinds of movement near the car, like animals and children.

The Effect on Insurance

So far, State Farm is the only auto insurance company to come on board with the driverless car movement. That could be because, as more self-driving vehicles hit the road, the need for car insurance could drop. According to Carol Csanda, director of strategic resources for State Farm,

“New safety features mean that we will crash less and when we do crash, the severity will be less.”

But that doesn’t necessarily mean drivers’ rates will go down. Autonomous vehicles will be more expensive to build and repair, which means the costs could actually go up in less severe accidents. Also, insurance companies use a lot of different factors to determine the cost of their insurance, including decades-old statistics, so it could take a while for rates to catch up to technology. In the meantime, autonomous car manufacturers will have to prove their vehicles are actually safer, and whether any of the inevitable crashes are actually their fault.

David Christensen is a No-Fault Auto Insurance lawyer with Christensen Law in Southfield, Michigan. He and his team are focused on getting their clients’ needs met, even in the most cutting edge car crash claims. If you or someone you know has been injured in an automobile accident, contact Christensen Law today for a free consultation.