Google cars and your credit union

by. Anthony Demangone

By now, you’ve likely seen stories (NYT) about Google’s prototype “driverless” cars.

With no breaks or steering wheel, my first thought was that the car seemed a bit…silly.

But then I read this article, which highlighted how Warren Buffet viewed the driverless car.

Buffett’s company, Berkshire Hathaway, owns the massive auto insurer Geico. If self-driving cars take off, Geico and its competitors could easily take a hit, Buffett says.

“That is a real threat to the auto insurance industry,” Buffett said at his company’s annual meeting here Saturday. “If [self-driving cars] prove successful and reduce accidents dramatically, it will be very good for society and very bad for auto insurers.”

Self-driving cars use video cameras, radar sensors, lasers and 3D mapping technology to navigate the road ahead. Google has positioned them as a way to reduce by half the 1.2 million lives lost every year in traffic accidents. Yet insurers fear a reduced rate of collisions could lead to lower premiums, ultimately hurting their bottom lines.

Still, Buffett said autonomous cars would not cause him to think “for one second” of selling Geico, which he repeatedly praised at the meeting. He and his longtime investing partner, Charlie Munger, also questioned how long it would take for driverless cars to gain mass appeal.

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