Hacking risk is what worries Americans most with driverless cars

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(Bloomberg) -- U.S. residents are “polarized” on whether to embrace driverless cars, according to a survey by insurer American International Group Inc.

The 1,000 people polled were almost equally split on whether they were comfortable sharing the road with autonomous vehicles, with 42 percent generally OK with it and 41 percent saying they had reservations, AIG said in a statement Tuesday. A plurality of 39 percent said they thought such vehicles would operate more safely than the average driver.

Three-fourths of those surveyed said they think there’s a threat that hackers would take control of autonomous vehicles. Still, the majority said they don’t expect driverless cars will be on the road within the next two decades.

The insurance industry has been grappling with how best to deal with autonomous vehicles and the risks that the technology poses. Morgan Stanley said in a January report that the auto insurance business could be significantly disrupted by 2040 and that many firms would lose share if they didn’t find ways to adapt.

“Risk does not disappear – it shifts from humans to machines,” Lex Baugh, AIG’s president of liability and financial lines, said in the statement.

Thirty-five percent of respondents said automated features could help lower insurance premiums. Depending on the circumstances, those surveyed thought liability for accidents could lie with the car manufacturer, software provider or the driver.

Still, the changes may come slowly. A study by consulting firm AlixPartners last month concluded that the majority of U.S. consumers were unlikely to consider buying a self-driving car when they come to market.

--With assistance from Keith Naughton

Bloomberg News