Can you imagine getting around the Garden State, perhaps to do some shopping on Route 1 or heading to the mall, in a car that drives itself?

As the technology continues to roll forward, insurance companies in New Jersey and across the country are already starting to look at how self-driving cars will affect coverage and the premiums that will be charged.

“No one is sure when completely autonomous cars will be available in the Garden State, but it is a matter of when, not if,” said John Hardiman, public affairs director for New Jersey Manufacturers Insurance.

He noted when major technology improvements have been phased in, historically “it’s taken about 30 years to integrate all of those features into all private vehicles operating in the U.S. fleet.”

Hardiman pointed out before we get to the point where cars will be completely driving themselves in the coming decades, we can expect a number of new high tech advancements to be phased in.

One example is automatic emergency braking, which is already starting to be offered by some automobile manufacturers, and will be standard on all new cars starting in 2022.

Hardiman said as cars become more and more autonomous, they will become safer but “they’re more costly to repair, so while cars are involved in less accidents or have less of a frequency, we’re also seeing an increase in the cost to repair these vehicles.”

Even with new technologies that will increase safety, he pointed out these vehicles will still be controlled by the driver, so “experience as a driver and maturity as a driver will still play a considerable part in how safe you are as a driver, and newly licensed drivers will need to have the experience behind them before they’re not in the highest risk category.

"Teens and people in their 20s still could potentially be paying more than more mature drivers, but everybody should realize a benefit.”

When self-driving cars do begin to show up on our highways, he predicted some bumps in the road.

“You could have 50 different laws in 50 different states, so if you do have a driverless car on the road traveling from New Jersey to Pennsylvania, it potentially might have to stop at the border because Pennsylvania has a different law governing such vehicles," he said.

Another potential question would be if a self-driving car is involved in an accident, who would be held responsible?

“Is it the driver, is it the manufacturer of the technology, or is it the manufacturer of the automobile? All of those questions will play out over time,” he said.

So as technology continues to advance, will we ever get to a point where there are no longer any car accidents?

“It’s a tough question to answer,” he said. “We can never guarantee that the technology wouldn’t fail. It’s very difficult to say right now because the age of truly self-driving cars is still a long, long ways away.”

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