The UK’s First Personal Insurance Policy for ‘driverless cars’: Too early or just in time?

The UK’s First Personal Insurance Policy for ‘driverless cars’:  Too early or just in time?

Yesterday, we received a press release announcing the launch of a new insurance proposition targeted at personal use for ‘driverless cars’ from Adrian Flux in the UK. This news arrives hot-on-the-heels of the Queen’s Speech last month that announced the UK Government’s intention to go beyond its current ‘driverless’ trials in selected cities and legislate for compulsory inclusion of liability coverage for cars operating in either fully or semi-autonomous mode.

As the press release suggests, this may be the world’s first policy making personal use of driverless cars explicit in its coverage (we haven’t been able to validate this yet). Certainly, up until now, I suspect that most trials have been insured either as part of a commercial scheme or, as Volvo indicated last year, by the auto manufacturer itself or trial owner. 

What I find particularly interesting about this announcement is that they have laid the foundation for coverage in their policy wording and, in doing so, been the first to set expectations paving the way for competition.

Key aspects of the coverage (straight from their site) include:

  • Loss or damage to your car caused by hacking or attempted hacking of its operating system or other software
  • Updates and patches to your car’s operating system, firewall, and mapping and navigation systems that have not been successfully installed within 24 hours of you being notified by the manufacturer
  • Satellite failure or outages that affect your car’s navigation systems
  • Failure of the manufacturer’s software or failure of any other authorised in-car software
  • Loss or damage caused by failing when able to use manual override to avoid an accident in the event of a software or mechanical failure

Reflecting on this list, it would appear that coverage is geared more towards the coming of the connected car rather than purely being a product for autonomous driving. Given recent breaches in security of connected car features (the most recent being the Mitsubishi Outlander where the vehicle alarm could be turned off remotely), loss or damage resulting from cyber-crime is increasingly of concern to the public and the industry at large – clearly an important area of coverage.

Given the time taken to legislate, uncertainty over exactly what the new legislation will demand, and then for the general public to become comfortable with autonomous vehicles, I suspect that it may be quite a few years before a sizeable book of business grows.  Often, the insurance product innovation is the easy part – driving adoption up to a position where it becomes interesting and the economics work is much harder.

Maybe this launch is a little too early?  Or maybe it's just-in-time?  Regardless of which one it is, in my opinion, this is still a  significant step forward towards acceptance. I also suspect that some of these features will start to creep their way into our regular personal auto policies in the very near future. I wonder who will be next to move?

If you’re interested in learning more about the potential impact of autonomous vehicles on the insurance industry, why not register here for Donald Light’s webinar on the topic tomorrow.

 

Predictions of Christmas past

Predictions of Christmas past
The speed of technology change is presently both amazingly fast and disappointingly slow. This paradox arises from seemingly huge shifts in technology regularly occurring over the last decade and a half but slow realisation of these in industry. Of late I have personally felt that things aren’t moving quite as quickly as I expected. Since we’re at the end of the year and the holidays are a great to reflect and review how things have gone I thought it worth going back a little and looking at some of Celent’s predictions from 2012. The image below summarises some of the predictions Celent used to highlight just how much change could occur in the following eight years. How much of it has proven to be accurate? Celent Predictions Printing human organs with a 3D printer was a topic of active research in 2011 and the topic of a TED talk. Still a topic of active research and still some years (possibly decades) until we’ll be getting replacement printed hearts and ears. That said, doctors in the US did save a two year olds life with a man made windpipe in 2012. In this case the ambiguous commercial space flight referred to the then-likely space tourism although the efforts of SpaceX have pre-empted the space tourism industry by some years. SpaceX was the first private company to complete a delivery to the International Space Station in May 2012 and made a delivery beyond Earth’s orbit in 2015. Widespread use of 3D printing was another suitably ambiguous phrase. In 2015 every home certainly doesn’t have a 3D printer although the devices are widely used in prototyping activity and are regularly found in increasingly popular innovation labs. The price of 3D printers is coming down to the level where other devices such as home printers and microwaves started to become popular – but the killer application is perhaps missing. Social commerce referred to the seemingly inevitable integration of retail directly into popular social platforms. While retail websites have adopted social features Facebook has not surpassed Amazon in terms of retail, indeed the leading social networks are still advertising platforms and not retail platforms, despite rumours over the last 3 years social networks still don’t have payments integrated in. A prediction firmly not realised. As regards the battery technology the insta-charge batteries are still not here, whilst they are an area of active research. Similarly the idea of highways capable of charging electric cars via induction is still at concept stage – with the adoption of electric cars having been slower than some expected with the popularity hybrids. There’s still time for these predictions to come about but they feel more like a bet than a certainty now. As regards drones executing simple tasks this is already being widely discussed, regulated and piloted in multiple countries. The concept of pizza deliveries by drone – a particular favourite of mine, has already been piloted in multiple cities. Smart energy meters and grids was an early expression of the Internet of Things technology beyond telematics in cars. This is increasingly finding its way into mature markets with multiple insurers in both the US and Europe offering insurance based on devices in the home. Finally, the crash proof car – the topic of Donald Light’s report on the end of auto insurance. It felt far too early to say driverless cars would be ubiquitous by 2022 so this was a safer bet. While it’s a strong statement to say a car is crash proof we have already seen the rise of testing of autonomous cars as well as multiple car manufacturers underwriting the activities of their vehicles while in autonomous mode. We are already seeing manufacturers literally willing to bet their vehicles won’t be responsible for crashes on todays roads. Perhaps then, things are moving swiftly and Celent’s wild predictions of 2012 aren’t that far from the mark. Also of comfort to me is how members of the insurance are directly involved in some of these initiatives, where they are relevant. If you get time to think back on the year, I would be curious on your views. Has technology change sped up? Slowed down? Surprised? Disappointed? Where do you think it will head next? Celent has it’s thinking cap on already and some of these topics will be discussed in our events, What if…. and Celent’s 2016 Innovation and Insight Day, although we’d surely love to hear your views.

California DMV flashes yellow light for driverless cars

California DMV flashes yellow light for driverless cars
As a long time resident of the Golden State, let me say that the words “fair,” “judicious,” “California,” and “DMV” just don’t appear together in the same sentence. But, I’ll break precedent and say that the  California DMV’s new draft regulations for driverless cars are (overall) fair and judicious. The regs begin to address the knotty social and legal issues of safety and liability. Manufacturers and a third party tester must certify the ability of a driverless car to meet specified safety and performance requirements. Operators (who used to be called drivers, back in the day) must be able to take control of the car and will be responsible for all traffic violations. It looks like the larger issue for insurers and trial lawyers of “who gets sued” is not directly addressed by the draft regs. Additional parts of the regulations include:
  • Special licensing for driver/operators
  • Obtaining driver/operator consent for collecting information “not necessary for the safe operation of the car” (hello interior-facing dashboard cams)
  • Ongoing reporting requirements by the manufacturers on the vehicles’ performance and safety
  • And, sign of the times, the vehicles must be able to detect and respond to cyber attacks
Some manufacturers may be (privately) impatient. But the reality is that these regs provide a path for broader deployment into a litigious and worried society of technologies still in the R&D stages.

A pivotal day for the insurance industry

A pivotal day for the insurance industry
There were a few key assumptions underlying Celent’s End of Auto insurance report:
  1. Cars would crash less, requiring lower claims expenditure and lower premiums
  2. Cars would drive themselves, liability would shift to manufacturers and ‘driver insurance’ would be a thing of the past
Today with Volvo’s announcement (also linked here) that they would accept all liability for the car in autonomous mode we see the first of three steps towards the end of auto insurance. This is a key moment in human history, a pivotal moment that will redefine how human beings travel albeit that may not be apparent today. Today, this looks like an inevitable check box on the route to autonomous cars. It is in fact both. Now the other manufacturers must follow suit or relegate themselves to manufacturing cars with no autonomous ability. Immediately, Blockbuster and Kodak come to mind. Initially they may deal with this through captive insurers but this will change over time. I mentioned this is the first of three steps. The next inevitable one will take place in the court of law, perhaps after the first death where the car was liable. Here the specifics will be tested and understood. This will be a different milestone in different jurisdictions. The third step will be a few years from now, when the autonomous systems have had enough time to partially fail due to poor maintenance. I am assuming we still own the cars at that point we’re not just renting them by the hour. At this point clarity will be given to who is responsible for making sure an autonomous system is still fit to drive on the road. Governments and lawmakers will have to define a minimum capability that is required before one can turn on the system. In some countries it may happen sooner than others but one imagines this will be a reactive exercise as manufacturers challenge their liability due to customers meddling with or failing to maintain the equipment. As interesting and drawn out as these second and third steps are, history will show they are insignificant compared to the point in time when the first manufacturer stood up and said they would accept full liability for their cars when in autonomous mode. Update: Other manufacturers are already following suit. and the Volvo CEO is already calling on the US government to establish testing guidelines as part of the speech.

Listen up auto insurers. Driverless Cars? No Problem. Collision Avoidance Technology? Hold On!

Listen up auto insurers. Driverless Cars?  No Problem. Collision Avoidance Technology?  Hold On!
The just released report by the National Traffic Safety Board (NTSB) contains some important findings on collision avoidance systems’ potential to prevent or mitigate the severity of rear-end collisions. Some of the data points are eye-popping: a predictive analysis found that this technology could prevent or reduce deaths and injuries in 87% to 94% of all accidents. A private study by the trucking firm Con-way found that these technologies reduced rollovers by 41% and rear-end collisions by 71%. Still impressive, but less startling, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety found a reduction in claims frequency in three luxury models of 7% to 14% (without estimating changes in severity). The good news for driver and passenger safety is that auto manufacturers are competing vigorously to offer these features in their new cars and trucks (The NTSB study has a 9 page Appendix listing these manufacturers and models). The NTSB study may also nudge the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to, someday, mandate these technologies in new vehicles. The long term implications for auto insurers though are similar to the implications of autonomous vehicles: fewer and less severe losses, resulting in competitive and regulatory pressure which will drive down premiums substantially. The auto insurance business is going to shrink. But the real question is how fast? Or to put the question more precisely, when will there be a critical mass of autonomous and collision avoidance-equipped vehicles on the road? The NTSB study is speeding up that timeline just a little bit.