The UK government has been vocal about its desire to be ‘at the forefront’ of self-driving cars and is spending unprecedented amounts of money to encourage their development as they create new jobs, and fuel economic growth estimated to be worth £28 billion within the next 16 years.
Crispin Moger, CEO for Marmalade – a leading provider of cars and insurance for young drivers – discusses whether the insurance industry is embracing this ambition and seeing it as an opportunity, or being too slow to react?
“Driverless cars are coming. They won’t be here tomorrow but they will be here in stages. The race to get there is fierce, and no company wants to look like it’s been left behind with various car manufacturers launching or trialling the latest self-driving model. Only last week Mercedes-Benz shut down the Las Vegas strip for journalists to ride in the Smart Vision EQ Concept.
“For some it seems a daunting scenario yet we are already experiencing a semi-autonomous journey with many vehicles fitted with semi-autonomous features such as self-parking or an automatic braking a system.
“The Budget announced in November included a full £1bn for high tech projects which includes £75m to be spent on artificial intelligence, £400m for electric car chargers and £100m on clean car sales. All of this will pay for the future where autonomous vehicles are on the streets by 2021.
“Whether you support this mission or not to position the UK as a hub for driverless innovation, the proposed five year timescale is a concern because I don’t believe the insurance industry is making enough progress. The sector is one which doesn’t have the best reputation, with the car insurance market in particular, renowned for being slow to evolve, risk adverse and sceptical of change and new technologies.
“Last year the UK government proposed that self-driving car insurance would not cover vehicles where the technology has been altered, or has not been updated. This means the policy owners will only be able to claim compensation if an accident happens when a self-driving car is driving itself with all technology up-to-date and unaltered.
“Despite this making sense it does bring ethical and legalistic questions, both of which will provide a headache for insurance businesses. We, as a society, are not used to machines making ethical decisions for us but the days when they will are fast approaching.
“Exactly what will and won’t be classed as a self-driving car has yet to be decided but there is evidence that some of the UK insurance providers are taking driverless cars seriously, with one of them announcing in 2016 the UK’s (and potentially the world’s) first-ever driverless car insurance policy. Beneath the PR stunt, due to the lack of substance to the service being offered, it is encouraging that providers are not sitting still and are looking at ways to be innovative.
“Currently car insurance providers will offer their customers three types of insurance cover: Third party, Third party, fire and theft, and Comprehensive. In a world where driverless cars will be considered an option in years to come and potentially causing accidents themselves, these arrangements will not cut it.
“It was reported last year that The Department for Transport will be unveiling plans for new, two-in-one insurance products for automated vehicles, which covers both the driver and the car in case their car spins out of control. Another consideration for insurance providers to factor in is data-related issues such as malicious interference by hackers and risks of theft.
“There are so many estimations concerning how driverless cars will benefit out future. According to a UK government report the most common road accidents occur due to driver error or reaction. Such instances are responsible for 71% of accidents on UK roads with the most popular ‘issue’ involved drivers failing to look properly. So imagine how many accidents will be prevented and lives saved in the future when driver error is eliminated due to driverless cars?
“In addition to this it’s predicted far less traffic congestion, no parking or speeding fines, enabling the elderly and disabled people to get around more easily, and drivers reaping the financial benefits. It all sounds spectacularly positive doesn’t it?”
“The UK is set on driverless cars being the future so it is more important than ever that the insurance industry embraces this ambition to be at the forefront and demonstrate innovation.
“There are a lot of unanswered questions which for many brings anxiety but I strongly urge insurance providers to seize this exciting opportunity and be confident in our capabilities to adapt.
“It’s time for car insurance businesses to be on top of their game and adjust from being an insurer for the mass of drivers, to offering tailored solutions against issues involving all eventualities with driverless cars.”
For more information about Marmalade visit www.wearemarmalade.co.uk