If you’re planning on launching a robotaxi fleet in the state of Washington anytime soon, you might want to start making friends with the local insurance agents — that’s because the state will require any self-driving cars to carry at least $5 million worth of liability insurance. For those keeping score, that’s 200 times (!) the $25,000 liability coverage required for a human driver. (!!)
The new rule went into effect in Seattle on 01 January, 2023, and also requires companies to self-certify with the city and obtain a permit to operate. The company’s vehicles must also operate with clearly visible logos, making it easier for members of the public (and, presumably, police) to identify them.
For the moment, the Washington State Department of Licensing lists only three companies currently registered to operate fully self-driving vehicles. These are: NVIDIA Corporation, Waymo LLC, and Zoox, Inc.
Waymo is a wholly owned subsidiary of Alphabet (Google), while Zoox was purchased by Amazon back in 2020. And, for their part, Zoox leadership seems to remain eager to test its vehicles in Seattle. “Seattle gets more rain than San Francisco,” said Amazon’s Zoox, Inc. in a statement. “Human drivers rely on wipers and defrosters to drive safely in adverse weather conditions; We built special hardware into our sensor architecture to remove water and debris. More frequent rain offers more opportunities to collect data and validate these innovations.”
“A calm sea has never produced a skilled sailor, and it’s exactly the same principle for our technology,” continues Kai Wang, Director of Prediction at Zoox. “The challenges of Seattle will allow us to refine our software stack and ultimately improve the behavior of our vehicles.”
The move to beef up insurance requirements for self-driving vehicles and robotaxi fleets comes on the heels of California banning manufacturers and retailers from claiming that a car is capable of self-driving (or, more specifically, “full self-driving”) if it is not. Other investigations into the safety of such systems by the NHTSA and others have already spawned consumer lawsuits and high-profile incidents of failure, edge cases or not. It remains to be seen if other states will adopt similarly expensive insurance requirements.
Source | Images: Washington Examiner.
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