Buffett: Self-driving cars and trucks would certainly hurt our business

Myles Udland

Self-driving cars and trucks may be years off, but when they come they will hurt Berkshire Hathaway, according to CEO Warren Buffett.

“Autonomous vehicles, widespread, would hurt us if they spread to trucks and they’d hurt our auto-insurance business,” Buffett said during Berkshire Hathaway’s Annual Shareholders Meeting.

“My personal view is [self-driving cars] will certainly come,” Buffett said. “I think they might be a long way off, but that will depend on the experience in the early months of the introduction other than test situations.”

Buffett said Berkshire’s auto insurance business at GEICO and its railroad transportation business at BNSF would both be at risk if self-driving cars and trucks became more widespread.

Currently, self-driving technology is being used companies like Tesla (TSLA), Alphabet’s (GOOGL) Waymo, and ride-sharing company Uber. Uber and Waymo are currently embroiled in a lawsuit alleging a former Google employee stole trade secrets and brought them to Uber.

Last year a fatal crash involving a Tesla being operated by its autopilot feature generated considerable questions over the efficacy of self-driving technologies on the open road. Tesla CEO Elon Musk said the degree of media coverage over the crashes was “quite disturbing” to him.

“It is basically almost none relative to the paucity of media coverage of the 1.2 million people that die every year in manual crashes,” Musk said.

This disproportionate coverage over failings in self-driving technology relative to human-error-related crashes is the early experience Buffett is almost certainly referring to in how quickly adoption of this technology is taken up.

“If [self-driving cars] make the world safer, it’s going to be a very good thing,” Buffett said. “But it won’t be a good thing for auto insurers.”

Following Buffett’s discussion of how self-driving technology would impact Berkshire Hathaway’s businesses, Vice Chairman Charlie Munger said, “I think that’s perfectly clear.”

Follow our Yahoo Finance’s coverage of Berkshire Hathaway’s annual meeting at Finance.Yahoo.com/BRKLiveStream.

Myles Udland is a writer at Yahoo Finance. Follow him on Twitter @MylesUdland

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