Bring up the year 2020, and people may think you're going to launch into a discussion about the presidential election.
But something else significant is expected to occur then.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk said last month fully self-driving cars are about two years away. “That may sound like the posturing of a hard-charging tech executive, but it actually mirrors the timeline targeted by more conventional automakers,” Contingency magazine reported in its January/February edition.
That doesn't mean all of us will be using such vehicles by then, of course.
“A mass market for autonomous vehicles is still many years away,” the magazine reported, but it predicted businesses using vehicles for such purposes as trucking, pizza delivery and Uber-type services, for instance, will be early adapters because of potential cost savings.
Safety is a big lure. In October, for instance, the Cruise self-driving unit of General Motors reported 13 accidents involving its testing fleet of 100 automated cars. That sounds like a lot. But in each of those incidents, a conventional driver or pedestrian was at fault.
A publication of the American Academy of Actuaries, Contingencies focused on what might happen to those who now make their living estimating driving risks if the risk of accidents eventually dropped to zero with automated cars. But it also posed some ethical questions that echo well beyond the insurance business. For instance, will self-driving cars be programmed to give priority to saving human lives or preserving property?
“If the car is in charge, what decisions will it have to make?” the magazine asked. “And who will be held accountable if those decisions hurt someone?”