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New Tennessee Legislation Could Make Owning an Autonomous Vehicle Unattainable for Many


Tennessee's recently enacted autonomous vehicle legislation could make owning a self-driving car too expensive for many drivers. The law stipulates that owners must have a $5 million insurance policy to take their vehicles out on the road, which could price many people out of buying a self-driving car.

The state passed the bill to get ahead of the curve with autonomous vehicles, ensuring that when manufacturers are ready to bring these cars to market, the legislation is already in place.

Initially, the focus was to create a framework that would allow auto manufacturers and other companies, such as Google and Uber, to test their autonomous vehicles on Tennessee roads. The intent was also to make sure the same companies don't rush the tech to market before it has been deemed safe. However, the bill was expanded significantly to include a statutory framework that will allow people to use these vehicles as soon as they can be purchased.

Among the bill's many stipulations, it states that manufacturers of self-driving vehicles must have a $5 million insurance policy on every vehicle when testing them in Tennessee. This obligation will pass to the owner of the vehicle when the cars become available to the public.

Annual costs for a $5 million umbrella policy are typically around $600, but the cost varies based on the policy holder's location, driving record, risk profile and more. The vehicle alone should have a $5 million policy, which could mean owners would pay at least $600 per year just for their car.

Insurers will have to create new policies specifically for autonomous vehicles, though, especially considering that a specific liability regime for these types of cars hasn't been developed. This could mean even higher insurance costs for owners of self-driving vehicles.

Autonomous Vehicles and Liability

As state law currently stands, matters aren't clear who is liable if a self-driving car crashes because the driver is considered responsible if they can take control of the car.

With fully autonomous vehicles, though, the passenger can't be blamed because they have no control. The vehicle manufacturer or another party involved in the car's production could be held liable, but they could attempt to prove the technology was used improperly.

These issues can complicate matters for a car wreck lawyer, and discourage manufacturers from producing the vehicles in the first place, which is why some feel a no-fault system would be a good solution.

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