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TheStreet Open House

Auto insurers prepare for self-driving cars and frayed nerves

But some of the new technology for driverless cars has already been accepted by the public. The Chubb survey shows that most drivers want a warning system that alerts drivers when they cross lanes, automatic breaking systems and cruise control, while a third would like self-parking.

It doesn't come cheap

A big problem: price. While driverless cars could be on the road by 2020, they won't come cheap. Many of the early models will come from high-end car makers such as Mercedes-Benz and Lexus, as well as newcomers like Tesla and Google.

This means that drivers at the lower end of the car-buying spectrum, who now keep their cars an average of 11 years, may opt to keep the old heap running even longer, or settle for a lower priced model that is only self-driven.

And then there's this: a deteriorating highway system with inconsistent or missing road signs and a 50-state regulatory system where the rules are often confusing and contradictory.

Only four states have even begun to address the issues that pertain to driverless cars.

One of those issues is the traditional "driving test" given to those who want to obtain a driver's license, as well as seniors who might have to requalify. Future testing would have to examine a driver's ability to program the car's high-tech devices, such as the autonomous navigator.

As for insurers, they have no data yet to tell them how safe a particular make or model is until it's actually on the road. How will they set accurate car insurance rates?

Convoys and 'platooning'

But there are advantages that an autonomous vehicle can offer. For instance, the computer that drives your car can also talk to other computers. Together they can negotiate the least time-consuming route to a destination as well as link up with other cars traveling in the same direction.

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