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Ranking States’ Websites

Insurance is a complex purchase — policies are hard to understand, the reputations of insurance companies can be difficult to determine and what exactly you’re paying for isn’t always clear. Making an informed decision amid the overwhelming amount of information takes some effort, diligent research and, sometimes, a bit of luck.

As it turns out, there’s an agency in your state government that should be able to help with all these things: your state’s department of insurance. But these agencies vary widely in their ability to give critical time- and money-saving information to residents, or even to answer a simple question about insurance in your state. A new NerdWallet analysis looked at insurance departments across the country, evaluating their online offerings and how helpful their websites are to consumers in their communities.

We found most of these websites fall short in serving consumers by not providing key information, such as insurer rate comparisons and complaint data, as well as easy access to consumer assistance and educational materials. But we also identified states like Texas, whose insurance department website is a model of excellence that the lower-scoring states would do well to emulate.

Key Findings

For this study, NerdWallet examined the websites for all 50 states and the District of Columbia, looking for information that would benefit consumers the most. We also called consumer helplines and emailed each insurance department. We then graded each agency on more than 20 factors that added up to a 100-point scale.

What did we find? The vast majority of departments had plenty of work to do to improve the consumer information they offer and how easy it is to find it.

  • States are split on sharing rate comparisons: Twenty-seven department websites featured car insurance rate comparisons at the time of our scoring, and 24 did not. As for homeowners insurance rate comparisons, 21 websites shared the data, and 30 did not.
  • Complete complaint data are scarce: Just nine department websites offered consumers the ability to compare 2015 complaint data across insurance companies for all four major lines of insurance — auto, health, homeowners and life. Twenty-three departments shared no complaint data.
  • Calling for help can be cumbersome: We called all 51 departments and asked a basic, state-specific auto insurance question. Though 19 answered our question in less than two minutes and 36 in less than 10 minutes, 15 either didn’t answer the question at all or took long enough that consumers could have found another source of information during that time.

It’s important to note that state insurance departments do much more than provide help and information to consumers. They also handle licensing, monitor and regulate rates, and deal with complaints. Our analysis focused only on their websites and helplines. Spokespeople for many of the lower-scoring states said their website offerings are limited because of staffing and budget constraints. A handful of state spokespeople we interviewed said they didn’t see value in offering the things we scored. For example, Ohio Department of Insurance spokesperson David Hopcraft said the agency does “not view its website as a shopping mall for online insurance comparisons,” when asked about why the department didn’t post rate comparison data.

Of the lower-scoring departments that responded to our requests for comment, several announced coming or in-progress improvements, including New Mexico, the lowest-scoring state in our analysis.

See also: The Insurance Implications of Social Networking Websites, Part 3  

“Your project has motivated us to improve the consumer elements of our website,” wrote Alan Seeley of the New Mexico Office of Superintendent of Insurance, whose department made several consumer-centric adjustments before publication.

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The Analysis

In 1999, the Consumer Federation of America graded state insurance department websites and reported that three states lacked an online presence. Now, all departments have websites, catering to how Americans prefer to get information. But these sites vary greatly in their offerings, their ease of use, how well they’ve kept pace with advancements in design and how folks get information online.

NerdWallet analyzed each website based on four categories:

  • Insurance rate comparisons
  • Complaint data
  • Consumer assistance
  • Consumer education and resources

For a comprehensive look at our methodology, including weightings, click here.

Here’s why we chose these metrics:

Insurance Rate Comparisons

States accept rate filings from insurance companies, which alert the department to changes in pricing and coverage. Typically based on these filings, premium comparisons shown on insurance department websites are not meant as quotes — as numerous factors go into pricing a policy — but consumers can use them to get a general idea of what they might pay for coverage or which company offers the lowest price.

Complaint Data

States are tasked with accepting and investigating consumer complaints against insurance companies. Comparing complaint rates across companies can be a useful shopping tool for auto, homeowners, health and life insurance customers.

Consumer Assistance

When insurance customers have questions about coverage and laws in their state, they should be able to call the agency responsible for insurance regulation and receive answers. For this metric, we called all 51 departments by using the phone number that consumers would be most likely to dial. We asked a basic state-specific insurance question: “What are the minimum auto insurance requirements in this state?”

Consumer Education and Resources

Insurance is a complicated topic, and with so many resources online, it’s difficult to know whom to trust. People should be able to go to the state agency tasked with insurance regulation to get unbiased information to help guide their insurance decisions.

Why It Matters

Insurance in the U.S. is regulated at the state level. This is in contrast to many other financial service providers, such as banks, other lenders, credit card companies and debt collectors, which operate under significant federal oversight. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is also looking out for the interests of customers by accepting and resolving complaints, as well as serving as a liaison between citizens and financial institutions. However, the trillion-dollar insurance industry is by and large an exception.

Fifty-one different regulating bodies make for a widely varied approach to insurance regulation and consumer services. Generally, however, these state insurance departments have the task of regulating the industry to protect consumers, the primary goal of state insurance regulation, according to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, or NAIC.

Robert Hunter, director of insurance at the Consumer Federation of America and former insurance commissioner for Texas, led an analysis of state insurance agencies in 1999 that was similar to this study. The motivation then: Consumers were complaining they couldn’t find crucial information, which Hunter says these department websites are in a unique position to provide.

See also: ACA: Complication for Websites  

“These departments are — at least you hope, and it’s almost always true — independent of insurance companies,” not subject to biases that might come from state commissions staffed by industry insiders, Hunter says. “Plus, they have a lot of information for consumers that no one else has, information that no one else can really help you with.”

Departments of insurance are clearinghouses for consumer complaints against insurers in their state. Most also require insurers to file rate changes and policy form updates, making them an ideal primary source of insurance policy information. These agencies, better than any national organization, know the unique challenges and legal requirements consumers in their state face, and they can provide this information without any self-serving interests.

“Consumers shouldn’t have to rely 100% on the insurance company or its salesperson for information,” says Amy Bach, executive director of United Policyholders, an insurance consumer advocacy organization. “There should be a neutral source of information available to the consumer to help them make good decisions surrounding this very complicated product.”

In our analysis, we found many states’ websites rely on the NAIC for educational information and details about complaints filed against insurance companies. This trade organization was established almost 150 years ago to bring some uniformity to the patchwork that results from so many regulatory bodies, and has developed some useful consumer resources. States can save time and money by passing these resources on to their residents. But NAIC resources are no substitute for the kind of localized information that state insurance departments provide, according to Birny Birnbaum, executive director of the Center for Economic Justice.

“It’s ridiculous to have an auto insurance buyers guide that lacks state specifics, that says, ‘In some states… .’ How does that help me?” Birnbaum says. “It’s wrong for a state to limit the resources that their insurance department has by simply relying on the NAIC. States need to supplement the tools that the NAIC provides.”

NerdWallet contacted the NAIC for comment but didn’t receive a response in time for publication. However, the NAIC consistently refers consumers to state insurance departments for information specific to where they live, both on its website and its educational site InsureU. When it comes to complaint data, the NAIC’s Consumer Information Source does the same, directing visitors to their state agency for complete information and accuracy.

The Results

Here’s how each state’s department measured up. An asterisk (*) denotes a tie in the rankings. For details of what went into each score, click on your state’s name or navigate to this page.

 

This report originally appeared on NerdWallet. You can find the methodology here.

The Start-Ups That Are Innovating in Life

In my last post, I provided categories within which to organize the innovation players within life insurance. Both start-ups and legacy businesses are pursuing solutions to industry pain points. Attention is being paid to distribution, product, client experience, speed, productivity, big data, compliance and other areas within the life category where inefficiency exists or where client needs are not met today.

The very complexity of life insurance will be a deterrent, at least in the near term, to the volume of innovations versus what we have seen in other areas of InsurTech. Much of the innovation, including the examples presented here in my April post, aim at specific issues with the current model for life insurance, versus taking a clean-sheet approach.

Entrants into the space aim to solve adviser problems, become the new intermediaries between the carriers and the client or assist the carriers themselves. For their part, carriers are funding and leading transformation efforts. They know they must adapt, but because it’s almost impossible to drive massive change from within an established business model and culture, it is likely that start-ups creating differentiated value that avoid becoming mired in complexity can do well.

Here are examples of opportunities:

Adviser conversations will move from the kitchen table to digital channels.

The Global Insurance Accelerator aims to drive innovation in the insurance industry. Of note in GIA’s 2016 cohort is InsuranceSocial.Media, a tiered offering that automates adviser participation in social media. Based on a user-defined profile, advisers are provided with algorithm-driven content that they can distribute via their social media identities.

Hearsay Social is a more evolved startup also enabling adviser social media. The company boasts relationships with seven out of 10 of the largest global financial services companies, among these New York Life, Pacific Life, Farmers and AXA. Hearsay addresses the compliance requirements that carriers have so their advisers can participate in social media: (1) archiving every instance of social media communication and (2) monitoring all adviser social conversations, intercepting compliance breaches. While not sexy, this capability is critical and commands C-suite attention.

An early-days market entrant also targeting adviser digital presence, LifeDrip claims to offer an automated marketing platform, including a personalized agent site, targeted content, signals on client readiness to buy and product recommendations.

Advisers as intermediaries are unlikely to disappear any time soon, but their role, engagement approach and capabilities must be more tech-savvy to appeal to virtually any consumer segment in this market with buying power. Expect additional new entrants that continue not to write off live intermediaries, and bring to market solutions to reshape the adviser relationship.

See also: How to Turn ‘Inno-va-SHUN’ Into Innovation

The new intermediaries are digital.

Smart Asset promises to simplify big financial decisions, including the purchase of life insurance, with an orientation toward how people make these decisions vs. pushing product. Shoppers can input data to a calculator and determine a coverage target; they are then encouraged to request a quote from New York Life. Smart Asset’s experience will be more credible when it includes multiple providers. It will require marketing investment to scale participation. Its basic approach could appeal to a large segment that will demand simple, low-cost product.

PolicyGenius has developed a consumer-friendly interface including instant quotes for life, as well as pet, renters and long-term disability insurance, following completion of an “insurance checkup.” As with other start-ups, this is a data-gathering exercise undoubtedly important to the company’s business model. AXA is an investor in PolicyGenius; the site promotes several major carriers as product providers.

Slice Labs is worth calling out because it is a direct-to-consumer play defining itself against a specific, important market segment – the 1099 workforce whose growth is being stimulated by the “on-demand economy.” Think not only about the Uber and Airbnb phenomena, but also the reality of more Americans moving away from traditional employer relationships where automatic access to benefits was a given.

Carriers will be viewed as start-up clients.

All of the companies mentioned already focus in and around the acquisition of new clients. InforcePro offers an automated solution for agents and carriers providing insights into sales opportunities and potential risks that exist within their current books.

Why does this matter? Insurance contracts are inordinately complex – even for the experts. Carriers and agents, particularly in recent years, have been forced to focus more heavily on maximizing the performance of the policies they have issued, versus just trying to sell more. The focus on the relationship with the policyholder has been skimpy. Life insurance policyholders can cancel a policy but cannot be “fired,” and represent continuing exposure, as their future claims can be on the carrier’s balance sheet for decades. With the risks and potential value now more obvious, in-force management has become a priority for focus and investment.

See also: Start-Ups Set Sights on Small Businesses

Carriers will drive efforts to innovate beyond incremental moves.

Haven Life owned by Mass Mutual but operated separately is a digital business whose product line is term life up to a $1 million benefit. The company operates in more than 40 states and represents a bold move for a 165-year old carrier. Nerdwallet rates Haven’s pricing as “competitive” – not the cheapest but well within range.

What is interesting about Haven is that it is not just implementing a shift of the same old approach to digital channels: Quotes are available in minutes, and coverage can become effective immediately, with the proviso that medical testing be completed within 90 days of policy issuance. In this space, this approach represents meaningful experience innovation.

Last year, John Hancock initiated an exclusive relationship in the U.S. with Vitality, marketing a program that gives rewards to clients who demonstrate healthy habits such as having health screenings, demonstrating nutritious eating habits, getting flu shots and engaging in regular exercise. Rewards range from cash back on groceries to premium reductions. This program is strategically significant because it aims at prevention, not just protection, linking preventative behaviors that clients control to cost savings.

Numerous carriers are participating in innovation accelerators, establishing their own incubators or forming dedicated venturing and innovation units. It remains to be seen which of these are what a colleague refers to as “innovation theater” and which are for real — drivers of new business opportunity. As with any early-stage plays, their stories will emerge over years, not quarters.

InsurTech Can Help Fix Drop in Life Insurance

No one disputes that life insurance ownership in the U.S. has been on the decline for decades.

The question up for debate is what to do about it.

The emergence of an insurtech sector is an indicator of entrepreneur and investor confidence in upside potential. The hundreds of millions of dollars being poured into technology by carriers is another.

See Also: Key to Understanding InsurTech

But before piles of capital are poured into attempts to capture the opportunity, investors and legacy insurers should reflect on the root causes of this seemingly unstoppable trend and prioritize innovations that aim at solving the biggest issues:

  • Carriers have evolved, through their own cumulative behavior over decades, away from serving the needs of the majority of Americans to meeting the needs of a shrinking, high-net-worth population
  • A declining pool of independent agents are chasing bigger policies within this segment
  • The industry has, effectively, painted itself into a corner and is trapped in a business model that, given its own complexity, is difficult to change from within

How have carriers painted themselves into a corner? 

Carriers face what Clayton Christensen termed, in his 1997 classic, “the innovator’s dilemma.” While continuing to do what they do brings carriers closer to mass-market irrelevance, today’s practices, products, processes and policies don’t change. They deliver near-term financials and maintain alignment with regulatory requirements.

It’s worth acknowledging how the carriers have ended up in this spiral, particularly the top 20, which collectively control more than 65% market share, according to A.M Best via Nerdwallet.

  • Disbanding of captive agent networks for cost reasons has also meant the loss of a (more) loyal distribution channel. The carriers that used to maintain captive agent networks enjoyed the benefits of a branded channel whose agents were motivated to promote the respective carrier’s products. They chose instead to …
  • Shift to third-party distribution, increasing dependency on a channel with less control, and where they face greater risk of commoditization. Placing life insurance products in a broad array of third-party channels, including everything from wealth management firms to brokerages and property/casualty networks, has added complexity and increased emphasis on managing mediated, non-digital channels. This focus comes at a time when other sectors are accelerating the move to direct, digital selling, aligning with changing demographics, technology trends and consumer preferences for digital-first, multi-channel relationships.
  • Product cost and complexity has raised the bar to close sales and has increased the focus on a smaller base of the wealthy and ultra-wealthy. With the exception of basic term life, life insurance products can be complex. They can be expensive. And, as a decent level of insurance at a fair premium requires a medical exam including blood and urine sampling, it takes hand holding to get potential policyholders through the purchase process. For the high and ultra-high net worth segments, the benefit of life insurance is often as a tax shelter, not simply to protect loved ones from the catastrophic consequences of unexpected earnings loss. More complexity equals more diversion from the mass market.
  • Intense focus on distribution has come at the expense of connecting with the client. Insurance company executives have long insisted – and behaved as though — the agent is the client, if not in word then effectively in deed. The model perpetuated by the industry delegates the client relationship to the agent. This has its plusses and minuses for the client, and certainly has come back to bite the carriers as they contemplate a digital approach to the marketplace where client data and a branded relationship matter. Carriers certainly do not win fans with clients – overall Net Promoter Score ratings for the insurance sector broadly are even lower than Congress’ approval ratings, and for at least one major carrier are reportedly negative.
  • The number of licensed agents is on the decline. The average age of an insurance agent or broker has increased from 37 years in 1983 and is now 59, based on McKinsey research. Agents have a poor survival rate: only 15% of agents who start on the independent agent career path are still in the game four years later. Base salary is negligible, and it’s an eat-what-you-kill business. This is a tough, impractical career path for most and has become less attractive over time.
  • The industry is legendarily slow and risk-averse. Think about actuaries – the function that anchors the business model makes a living by looking backward and surfacing what can go wrong. That is a valid role, but the antithesis of what it takes to build a culture where innovation can thrive.

What is the path to opportunity?

Here are innovation thought-starters to create value for an industry undergoing transformation:

  • Clients must be at the center of strategy. Twentieth-century carrier strategy may have been grounded in creating distribution advantage and pushing product, but 21st century success will come to those who put the client at the center of all aspects of execution. “Client centricity” is a way of operating a business, not a slogan.
  • Innovation starts with a new answer to the question, “who is the customer.” The agent is a valuable partner, but she is not the client. There is white space in the mass market – the middle class – not being served by the current system beyond a limited offering. Life insurance ownership has been linked to the stability of the middle class. We should all be concerned with the decline in life insurance ownership and lack of attention paid to this segment.
  • The orthodoxy, “insurance is sold not bought,” sets a self-inflicted set of limitations that can and should be disrupted. The existing product set may have to be pushed to clients because of its complexity, pricing, target audience, channels and near-term performance dependencies.
  • Getting the economics right and meeting the needs of today’s clients will demand a digital-first offering – from being discoverable via SEO and social on mobile screens, to supporting application processing, self-service, premium payments, document storage and downloads and connection to licensed reps whenever clients feel that is necessary. It will require full digital enablement of agents to create the right client experience, and improve revenues and expenses. Ask anyone who has purchased life insurance about his or her decision journey, and invariably you will find out that shopping for insurance is a social, multi-channel experience. People ask people whom they like and trust when it comes to making important life event-based decisions. Aligning to how people behave already is a winning approach, and is what customer-centricity is about.
  • In a world of big data, it’s ironic that the insurance sector is one of the most sophisticated in its historical use of data. Winners will realize the potential of new data sources, unstructured data, artificial intelligence and the many other manifestations of big data to personalize underwriting, anticipate client needs and create positive experiences including multi-channel distribution and servicing. Amazon, Apple and Google have set the standard on what is possible in customer experience, and no one will be exempt from that standard.
  • Life insurance products may be an infrequent purchase, but the need to protect one’s loved ones can be daily. In today’s product-push model, a continuing relationship beyond the annual policy renewal is the exception. Consider the potential of prevention services as a means of boosting lifetime value and client loyalty. In a world full of insecurity, there is a role for a continuing conversation about prevention and protection. But the conversation must be reimagined beyond pushing the next product to one that places a priority on serving the client.

Fascinating Patent Filing by State Farm

Sometimes other drivers can make you crazy. Maybe you’ve gestured to boneheaded motorists, safe in the anonymity of your car and the flow of traffic. Perhaps you’ve let your anger at other drivers get the best of you at times because there’s no one else in the car to judge.

But State Farm is on the case. It has developed plans to monitor your every move while you’re driving, measure your emotions, detect angry behavior and deliver stimuli such as music to calm you down.

The plans, as revealed in a patent application, would combine biometric measurements with automotive data to create a “total impairment score” that could be used to set customized car insurance rates.

“Every year, many vehicle accidents are caused by impaired vehicle operation,” State Farm says in its application, recently filed with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. “One common kind of impaired vehicle operation is agitated, anxious or aggressive driving.”

Are you sweating, yelling or waving your arms while you drive? State Farm’s “emotion management system” would use a variety of sensors and cameras to monitor your biometrics, including:

  • Heart rate
  • Grip pressure on the steering wheel
  • Body temperature
  • Arm movement
  • Head direction and movement
  • Vocal amplitude and pattern
  • Respiration rate

The system could use “infrared optical brain imaging data” to get deeper inside your head. State Farm might even know if you’re giving the evil eye to another driver: Measurements include gaze direction and duration, eyelid opening and blink rate.

And impaired driving is not confined to angry and aggressive drivers. State Farm also would consider nervousness, distraction and drowsiness. Other sensors would keep track of your vehicle: Are you swerving, accelerating or driving too close to other objects?

[Compare car insurance quotes through NerdWallet’s Car Insurance Comparison Tool.]

Smell this and calm down

If you are “emotionally impaired” – as measured by State Farm, not your spouse – the patent-pending system would select and deliver stimuli to change your behavior. The patent application outlines a variety of options, including relaxing music, a recorded message, sounds of nature, fragrance or a blast of cold air. The system might even suggest you stop at a coffee shop or scenic overlook.

Robert Nemerovski, a licensed clinical psychologist in the San Francisco area and an expert on anger management and road rage, was skeptical about State Farm’s patent. He questioned whether an automated system could be sophisticated enough to account for the unique characteristics of individual drivers.

“I would be concerned about individual differences: people on medication, the elderly vs. the young,” he said. “Maybe they have PTSD, or they’re in recovery from a heart attack. [State Farm] would need to know nuances of human behavior and human bodies.”

In addition, “People don’t want someone patronizing you or telling you to calm down. I’m not sure it would be successful psychologically because it would be rather annoying,” he says.

state farm patent

State Farm’s depiction of an emotional impairment score on a mobile device, from its patent application.

State Farm envisions an “emotion management system” that goes beyond just monitoring behavior. The system would store profiles for each driver so, for example, it would learn which music might reduce your hard braking or persuade you to stop tailing the car in front of you. This might spell an end to your loud music.

Each time you end a trip, the State Farm system would analyze the data and update your impairment score, which you could check on your mobile device.

Because the purpose of the patent application is only to describe the system, it leaves many unanswered questions, including:

  • How much would it cost per vehicle?
  • Who would pay?
  • How often would you have to refill your fragrance containers?

State Farm, the nation’s largest car insurance provider, declined to comment on specifics of the patent application but provided this statement to NerdWallet: “State Farm is actively innovating in a number of areas that are important to improving how we meet the needs of our customers. The patent  . . . is just one example of State Farm’s innovation. Because of the nature of our innovation work and patent program, we are unable to provide further comments at this time.”

Angry about car insurance bills, too?

According to the application, State Farm is considering applying the “comprehensive impairment level” to car insurance in several ways, including:

  • Adjusting your insurance rate, up or down.
  • Requiring you to buy a minimum amount of auto insurance, or limiting how much it will sell you.
  • Offering you a discount for using the system.
  • Flagging your policy for possible cancellation.

While State Farm’s plans may never be implemented, the carrier clearly has many ambitious ideas about monitoring customer behavior, such as its previously described ideas to price car insurance by the trip and deliver targeted ads based on where you drive.

Many consumers aren’t aware that auto insurers are preparing to unleash a tsunami of such services based on telematics, systems that track your car and driving habits. Progressive was the first to enter the space and dominated it for a while with its Snapshot usage-based insurance program.

“Other big auto insurers don’t want to be in second or third place again,” says Donald Light, director of North America property/casualty insurance for Celent, a research and consulting firm that focuses on information technology in financial services.

“I believe in about five years it will be a standard part of an auto insurance policy,” Light says.  “Insurers will say, ‘If you don’t want to use it that’s fine, too, but we’ll charge you based on not having it.’”

Light sees one large hurdle to State Farm’s emotion-management plan: The company will have to convince state insurance regulators that the emotional impairment scores accurately reflect risk.

“The key qualifier is that these kinds of data have to make actuarial significant difference in the ‘risk’ of different drivers,” Light says. For example, if State Farm wants to charge more based on driver agitation, the company will have to prove that agitation causes crashes.

Nemerovski says State Farm’s emotional management system might appeal to millennials, who are comfortable with the idea of measuring physical and other metrics so they can be improved.

“But I don’t think people would want it to be shoved down their throats,” he says.

Lack of Enthusiasm for Driverless Cars?

Automakers will have to focus on women if they hope to make driverless cars mainstream, according to a NerdWallet survey that shows men are far more likely to express interest in the new technology. The survey of more than 1,000 Americans nationwide also exposes a sharp divide in views on self-driving vehicles between Millennials and older Americans.

Only 37% of women surveyed by NerdWallet expressed any interest in owning a self-driving car, whereas half of men expressed interest.

The survey also found that 53% of respondents ages 18 to 29 were “very interested” or “somewhat interested” in owning a self-driving car, compared with just 41% of those 30 and older.

Consumers Are Skeptical About Driverless Cars

Among key findings of the survey:

  • Most women expressed concern about the safety of self-driving cars, with 55% citing safety as among the biggest drawbacks of the new technology. Only 37% of men were worried about safety.
  • 44% of men were concerned that driverless cars will take the fun out of driving; only 23% of women felt that way.
  • Consumers have a limited amount of trust in autonomous car technology. When asked whether they would put a child alone in a driverless car to go to school or a friend’s house, only 6% of those surveyed would close the door and wave goodbye.
  • While consumers are not yet ready to embrace a driverless world, they are interested in safety technologies that are paving the way for fully autonomous vehicles. Blind-spot detection was by far the most popular new technology, with 42% citing it as the most appealing feature of semi-autonomous cars, followed by emergency braking to prevent crashes, favored by 30%.

Self-driving cars are here

Self-driving cars, also known as autonomous vehicles, once seemed the stuff of science fiction, but they are already testing on the highway and seem certain to end up in dealer showrooms before long. Yet our survey of more than 1,000 Americans found a distinct lack of enthusiasm toward the prospect of driverless cars, with only a small minority “very interested” in buying one and nearly twice as many saying they were “not at all interested.”

Nevertheless, a transition to autonomous cars seems inevitable.

Google recently announced that it will begin putting its self-driving cars on public roads in Mountain View, CA, this summer. Over six years of testing, Google says its cars have been involved in only 11 accidents – none of which was the fault of the Google car. In most cases, the cars were rear-ended.

A self-driving Audi recently completed a trip from San Francisco to New York in nine days, driving in automated mode 99% of the time, according to Delphi Automotive, which made the technology.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk recently announced a software upgrade for some of the maker’s electric cars that will make it possible for the cars to drive from San Francisco to Seattle without human input – “from parking lot to parking lot,” as he put it at a news conference. However, the full autopilot feature will not be enabled, at least initially, he said.

While our survey found Americans as a whole relatively unenthusiastic about driverless cars, men were far more likely than women to express interest.

Interest in Owning a Driverless Car

Self-driving cars use GPS and a variety of sensors (cameras, radar and lasers) to scan and identify the environment around the car. A computer in the car processes data from the sensors to decide on driving actions such as steering, braking and turning. Cars would be networked, using vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communication to talk to one another. Ultimately, a human driver becomes just another passenger and would be able to sit back and do other things while en route.

The potential for reducing car accidents could be significant. After all, the computer never takes its “eyes” off the road, never gets distracted, never gets tired.

On May 13, Transportation Secretary Anthony Fox announced that the U.S. Department of Transportation will fast-track rules to require V2V communication in future cars.

Still, many people are firm in their resistance to driverless vehicles: 28% vow they will never purchase a driverless car. Only a very small contingent (3%) is ready to buy a self-driving car right now. The majority of those surveyed (51%) would wait three years or longer after such cars became available before considering buying one.

When People Would Buy a Driverless Car

NerdWallet also wanted to find out what would be appealing about driverless cars that could potentially win over customers. While more than one-third of consumers (36%) did not find anything appealing about driverless cars, about the same percentage liked the ideas of saving on car insurance and letting the car handle routine driving tasks.

What People Like About Driverless Cars

Notably, fewer than one-third of people found the potential for improved safety to be a compelling reason to own a driverless car.

The older the age group, the more likely respondents were to say they couldn’t find anything appealing about driverless cars, from a low of 26% among those ages 18 to 29, to 44% among those age 60 and older.

Safety and cost are top worries

Safety concerns are a major drawback of self-driving cars, according to 46% of respondents, but cost was the biggest worry.

What People Don't Like About Driverless Cars

Concern about safety also bubbled up when we asked about car insurance rates. Typically, cars that crash less are rewarded with lower auto insurance rates. But only 41% of people think owners of self-driving cars should pay less for insurance.

As another measure of trust in autonomous car technology, we asked whether people would put a child in a self-driving car alone to go to school or a friend’s house. Only 6% gave a thumbs-up to that idea. Most people (76%) said no, and the rest were unsure.

However, people did show interest in safety technologies such as collision avoidance, suggesting the possibility that they will eventually come around to self-driving cars if they can be sold on the cars’ safety promises (and if men can still have a little fun). Only 9% of people said they had no interest in any of the technologies we asked about.

Most Desired Advanced Technology Features

A few are ready to spend today

There’s a very small, enthusiastic contingent of people who are ready to embrace driverless cars today: 3% of respondents say they would purchase a driverless car today if they could, and 6% say they’d be willing to pay more than $10,000 extra for a fully autonomous car over a regular car.

Another 15% say they would pay $5,001 to $10,000 more. (Experts generally predict that self-driving cars will cost about $7,000 to $10,000 more than regular cars when they are introduced, with the price differential decreasing in subsequent years.) But pessimism about the value of autonomous cars still prevails: 50% of people say they wouldn’t pay a dime more.

Methodology

NerdWallet conducted a national, online survey of 1,028 randomly selected Americans ages 18 and older on May 12-13, 2015, via SurveyMonkey. Respondents were 52% female and 48% male. By age, 22% were under 30, and 26% were over 60. Margin of error: four percentage points.

For the full study, click here.