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July 17, 2017

The Evolution in Self-Driving Vehicles

Summary:

Although driverless cars will become mainstream in more than a decade, insurance executives should start thinking about certain issues now.

Photo Courtesy of Pixabay

Although driverless cars will become mainstream in more than a decade, there are certain considerations that insurance executives should start thinking about now. We will continue to explore this evolving topic and suggest ways insurers can position themselves to take advantage of the enormous disruption that autonomous technology will cause to the business of risk. We will provide our perspectives on how the risks involved in transportation will be transformed, how financial responsibility will be assigned and how insurance products will need to be adapted – and how the key issues might be influenced by regulators and legislators.

In our view, insurers will face these five key challenges.

Challenge 1: What risks will remain – and will new ones arise?

A primary aim of autonomous technology is to reduce the number of traffic accidents, and the public’s and regulators’ expectations will be very high. We will examine what the residual risk of collisions could be and how the cost of injuries and repairs could change. We will offer our view on how new technologies will improve reporting of claims and change the potential for fraud.

At the same time, new risks will emerge, such as cyber attacks, software bugs and control failures. What will the exposure to systemic risks mean for insurability?

See also: Future of Self-Driving Cars (Infographic)

Challenge 2: Who is the customer, and how will we do business with that customer?

Who is liable for risk will be the key question, especially if a high proportion of remaining accidents will be attributable to failures in control software and systems. We will consider how original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and manufacturers could become liable for claims in the future, and whether they can shift the legal or financial burden to others in the supply chain. For example, could vehicle end users be required to purchase policies to indemnify OEMs, or will the cost of product liability insurance be passed to new vehicle purchasers? If transportation is consumed on a pay-per-use basis, could insurance be wrapped into the charge?

Whatever the outcome, the current insurer-consumer relationship – along with marketing, sales and distribution methods – will be fundamentally altered. Retaining control over this relationship will be essential if insurers are to avoid becoming redundant or marginalized by other players.

Challenge 3: How will the insurance product have to change?

Changes in liability and use will necessitate major revisions to the insurance products to meet the market’s needs. We will examine how autonomous products can be developed and configured to cover gray areas of liability and negligence resulting from the overlap between human and computer control. Would product tiers correspond to the “one-to-five” scale of the vehicle’s automation capability? Pay-per-use (versus “blanket” cover) could imply that short-term rather than annual renewable policies would become the norm – and lessons learned from current ride-sharing products could be employed. How will regulation affect or keep pace with the new products? Considerations for commercial lines might be significantly different when the rate of adoption is expected to increase the fastest and different technologies and enhanced safety overrides could be economical to deploy.

Challenge 4: How will we price it – and can it still be profitable?

The relative importance of different rating factors in pricing will change markedly. First, analysis of risk would depend primarily on the degree of self-driving versus manual control. For autonomous operation, pricing would be based on assessing the vehicle’s level of automation in terms of its technology, quality of implementation and anticipated types of driving. There are nuances between manufacturers even for relatively basic, standardized technologies, such as automatic emergency braking (AEB). For example, fuller automation capability may vary depending on the OEM, sensor quality and software used. How would data on the technical capability and usage statistics be collected? Could this be centralized in some way and retrieved transparently by insurers, rather than having to be disclosed?

The economics of the product will also be very different given a much reduced number of claims, and we will examine the speed of change, the resulting size of the market over time and the return on capital it might sustain compared with the present. Key questions will be to what extent this might be offset by increased overall demand for transportation, given the surge in accessibility of car transportation combined with the anticipated benefits to congestion. Could any alternative, discretionary coverages become more relevant?

Challenge 5: What influence will legislators have?

A large number of agencies are managing pilot programs, and their policies will have a major influence by encouraging or inhibiting adoption in each different country. We will give an overview of the current progress in each jurisdiction and highlight leading models that we foresee will become the templates for broader rollout.

Starting from an overview of the applicability of current insurance legislation to autonomous vehicle operation, we will review how legislation is likely to guide the cover and scope of autonomous insurance products in the future and the likely compulsory minimum cover requirements.

See also: Of Robots, Self-Driving Cars and Insurance  

Conclusion

As we have seen, autonomous vehicles will revolutionize mobility and inevitably automobile insurance. While we cannot predict the pace of these changes, we encourage insurers to prepare accordingly.

The lessons from other industries are stark. Companies content to wait and see, or worse – are oblivious to the threat until it is too late – could share the familiar fate of other household names that have been left behind by a wave of new technology.

In considering the next steps, insurers should analyze their business portfolios and strategies to understand their exposure to these changes. They should conduct what-if scenario analysis to model potential effect and evaluate what actions will be required to transform their organizations in parallel with various levels of car automation.

Early innovators are likely to generate substantial benefit for their businesses. To be successful in this space, insurers will need to aim for agile innovation and improve the way they use increasing volumes of data. They should also explore new collaborative models to shape a connected automotive ecosystem that will include insurers, auto manufacturers, technology companies and regulators.

You can find the full report from EY here.

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About the Author

Dave Hollander is EY’s global insurance advisory leader and Americas co-sector lead for insurance. He has more than 30 years of experience in the insurance industry, with broad business and IT strategy as well as hands-on leadership and implementation of major operational change programs.

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