Auto insurance in Texas is based mainly on safety. That means innovations in the auto industry that make cars safer also tend to bring down the cost of insurance. It usually takes time for new safety features to appear in mass-market cars, but new software updates can be deployed instantly. They use the existing tools of the car and add new functions to them. There are good recent examples of car companies using software updates to improve the safety of their cars, and as the onboard computers become better, it will be easier to use software to make cars safer and insurance cheaper.
The Example of Tesla
The flashiest example of a software update came just last month when Tesla, the electric car company, released new software for its Model S cars. The software had a new feature called Autopilot that did exactly what it sounds like it did: Autopilot can automatically direct the car while it is on the highway. It can maintain its position in traffic, change lanes, adjust to the presence of other cars, and navigate on ramps and exits without any human input at all. In effect, owners of the Tesla no longer need to control their car on highways. A team has already taken the Model S from California to New York using Autopilot to do the vast majority of the driving. The car can also park itself. All of this was done using nothing more than software- car owners woke up one day and the feature was available. The sophistication of the computer in the car meant that it just took adding some more code to allow the computer to scan its local driving environment and direct the car’s driving systems. The Model S can react to changes in traffic, curves in the road, and obstacles faster than a human driver, creating a safer and more convenient driving experience. The cost of cheap car insurance Texas for Tesla owners correspondingly fell. Autopilot is a new feature and limited in scope, but it was so easy to deploy and add to existing cars that the benefits applied immediately to all owners of the car.
The fact that cars are increasingly connected and reliant on software opens up a new avenue of concern- hacks. Some researchers have demonstrated the ability to hack into a car using its computer and gain limited control over the car’s movement. This is a potential vulnerability, but just as software created the opening, so can software be the solution. Car companies simply need to get used to the idea of building security into their software updates. Right now, because cars and tech are a recent fusion, the software engineers for auto companies are not used to adding security measures to their code. But that is just a matter of adjusting to the security environment: it is not difficult to create robust security and add it to a software patch. Greater security for the onboard computer will do even more to make cars safe.
The safety features that software updates make possible and accessible have the potential to transform cars that people already own, without forcing them to buy a new car to get access to the latest innovations. It is hard to overstate how useful this concept is- considering that families spend several years with the same car, they can miss out on a lot of new safety tools in that time. The fact that they stick with the same car also means they cannot enjoy the insurance savings from new safety features either.