These are interesting times for engineers and designers involved in driverless, or semi-autonomous vehicles. There are many test projects and pilot schemes underway and government cash is being pledged to support the development of driverless cars. But one of the biggest questions every driver has is simple, yet profound; whose fault is it when a driverless car hits something – mine, or the car’s?
Everyone in the insurance sector needs to plan ahead to meet the challenge of blame post-accident, and understand the wider implications of downloading, analysing and storing huge amounts of data. So heavyweight insurer RSA has launched “Autonomy and Motor Insurance – what happens next?”, a report looking at the impact of driverless vehicles on the motor insurance industry, drawing on its experience as the insurer to the GATEway Project – a recent trial of autonomous vehicles in Greenwich, London.
As the motor industry moves towards fully driverless vehicles, the report considers the role of insurers in providing cover for drivers and highlights how crucial data capture will be in determining liability in the case of accidents.
There are over 31 million vehicles on Britain’s roads today, but according to the Department for Transport around 26,000 people were killed (actually 1710 killed, according to provisional estimates from the UK government) or seriously injured on the roads last year. 93% of those deaths are attributed to human error, which could be significantly reduced by automated driving technologies that have the potential to reduce incidences of traffic accidents and violations by eliminating driver error.
The aim of the GATEway Project (Greenwich Automated Transport Environment) was to understand how automated vehicles can help to address our future urban mobility needs, and the barriers to overcome before these vehicles become a reality on Britain’s roads.
RSA found that while the proliferation of autonomous vehicles could prove beneficial to drivers – as well as insurers – drivers need to be aware that current marketing of new assistance features can give the false impression of a level of autonomy not yet available.
As an industry leader, RSA is looking at the opportunities that automotive technology can bring, and evaluating how these developments will impact underwriting and pricing. RSA’s involvement in the GATEway Project prompted a number of considerations that the business will seek to address as it develops insurance products for autonomous vehicles.
- Insurers will need easy access to data from autonomous vehicles, particularly in the event of an incident or loss. In a post-GDPR world, decisions will need to be made about the storage and ownership of data from autonomous vehicles, and how insurers can access and use this information;
- Data has the potential to make liability easier to establish but it will be a point of debate as the insurance industry works more closely with manufacturers to determine whether a vehicle or driver was responsible in the event of an incident or loss;
- Claims handling procedures will in the future need to consider the different kinds of claims driven by new technologies – for example, where the replacement of sensors, software and hardware elements is required
- Underwriting parameters may change drastically as current rate assumptions based on age, claims history, medical conditions, convictions and so on become less significant factors in a fully autonomous vehicle;
- New rating methodologies will need to be developed as historic ‘big data’ on claims and trends become increasingly redundant;
- Categories of cover currently offered typically to business customers, such as cyber risk cover, will likely need to be developed as a dimension of motor policies.
- Governments and regulators will need to be responsive to provide up to date guidance that keeps track with the rapid developments of technology – for example, the existing Highway Code was written for a different environment.
Commenting on today’s report, author Ian Kemp, commercial motor underwriting director, RSA said: “Autonomous vehicles are no longer a space age fantasy; they are in our near future, and have the potential to make journeys smoother, more energy efficient and safer. It’s now the time to look closely at the opportunities and implications of these developments for insurers and their customers.
“As technology develops, we need to define clearly what constitutes an automated vehicle so we can properly assess the risks and provide appropriate insurance. The industry will need to be supported by a robust infrastructure and communications network, and updated regulations and legislation. As a wide spectrum of assistance and automation becomes available, is critical too that we take an active role in helping our customers to understand fully the capabilities and constraints of their own vehicles, and where liability in the event of an incident may lie.
“This is a time of rapid and unprecedented change for the motor industry, and we are delighted to take a leading role in understanding how insurers can respond to, adapt and influence that change to provide the best possible support for motorists.”
The full RSA report can be found here: or shared via Twitter at #insuringthefuture.