Is State Farm Pre-positioning Itself for the End of Auto Insurance (and Maybe the End of Homeowners Insurance Too)?

Is State Farm Pre-positioning Itself for the End of Auto Insurance (and Maybe the End of Homeowners Insurance Too)?

Once in a while an insurance company asks me for advice—and occasionally even follows the advice which I provide.

I can say, however, that State Farm has never asked me for any advice about what they should do if the need for auto insurance disappears or substantially declines. Nor has State Farm ever asked me what they should do if the demand for homeowners insurance should take a similar dive.

Some readers may be wondering why would State Farm seek advice from your humble blogger about either topic?

Well, because I have been writing and talking about the end of auto insurance for four years. My just posted Celent Report, The End of Auto Insurance: A Scenario or a Prediction?  looks at how three technologies—telematics, onboard collision avoidance systems, and driverless cars—will depress auto insurance losses and premiums over the next 15 years.

I have also been writing and talking about the impact of the Internet of Things on the property/casualty industry for two years. Celent research subscribers can look at my reports: The Internet of Things and Property/Casualty Insurance: Can an Old Industry Learn New Tricks and Can a Fixed Cost Property/Casualty Industry Survive the Internet of Things?

So without even a word of advice from me, it looks like State Farm has pondered potential declines in auto and homeowners insurance; and decided to start some early positioning for itself and its agents if such things come to pass.

Proof Point: A new State Farm commercial called “Wrong/Right” shows a world without windstorms, traffic accidents, building fires, and emergencies. The commercial goes on to ask what about State Farm in such a world? The implied answer is that State Farm and its agents will be in the lending, wealth accumulation, and retirement income businesses. The tag line is “Here to help life go right.”

Which personal lines property/casualty insurer will jump in next?

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.