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Early today, (May 13th), Starsky Robotics started testing driverless semi-trucks on the elevated parts of the Selmon Expressway in Tampa. Testing is planned through Wednesday of this week, with the vehicles being controlled by technology as a human driver is in place for safety.

The owners of Starsky Robotics say these trucks will actually make roadways safer, but what does that mean when it comes to businesses insuring vehicles? We spoke with Sihle Insurance Group Equity Partner Blake Newman about how it will affect the industry:

Sihle: This idea of driverless vehicles is something that seems to be developing quickly. Where do you think the industry is right now with autonomous vehicles?

Newman: I don’t think autonomous vehicles are perfected just yet and they still need a human driver to navigate cities. The idea is to alleviate human error but these driverless systems aren’t perfect, and there will be errors. Things are headed the way of autonomous vehicles but I think initially we’re going to see errors, which will result in claims.

Sihle: Once these systems are more mainstream and we see a higher amount of vehicles on the road, what new risks will companies be facing?

Newman: Once systems are perfected, there should be fewer crashes and accidents so these types of vehicles will be less expensive to insure.  With this, the risk is transferred from the trucking company to the software vendor which opens a whole new set of risk management issues. Who is responsible for the crash?

Sihle: Are there other risks outside of those on the roadways with these vehicles?

Newman: Other risk concerns are hacked guidance systems and software from malicious interference causing a breach of personal data or some sort or terrorism (using the truck as a weapon). There’s whole set of problems with autonomous vehicles that will have to be worked out before they are put on the road.

Blake Newman is an Equity Partner with Sihle Insurance Group, with over 20 years of experience in the insurance industry. He is a graduate of the University of North Florida. You can contact Blake with any questions or concerns regarding your commercial insurance coverage via email: BNewman@sihle.com.