Shifting insurance landscape as driverless cars become reality

Aon expects that in a driverless world, manufacturer liability will rise from the current five per cent of incidents to “pretty close to 100 per cent”, it says in its publication One Brief.

And, indeed, there’s no stopping the march of technology now. Today Ford revealed its intention to have a high-volume fully autonomous vehicle in operation for ride-hailing and ride-sharing services in 2021.

Aon says insurers face a “radically new business landscape” with driverless cars. “If an owner is no longer responsible for driving a vehicle, they can’t be expected to be liable for damages, with the possible exceptions of failing to properly maintain or update the technology governing the car’s behaviour.

“Instead, what will begin to happen is corporations will take over a much bigger share of liability – and consequently insurance responsibility – from consumers.

“But the increased safety of driverless cars means premiums will be lower, making the environment harder for insurers even as the vehicles themselves are likely to become more expensive to repair, due to their greater reliance on high technology.”

It quoted SwissRe’s estimate that in the 14 biggest car markets, premiums could fall by as much as $20 million by 2020.

But when one door closes, another opens, so they say, and there could be opportunities with coverage for cyber risks not previously associated with the automotive industry, Aon notes. The “spheres of vehicle insurance, and home and data insurance may even end up rolling together”.

Another silver lining, Aon points out, is the data that will be available from connected fleets which could be used to design more “granular and responsive insurance packages, and better predict payouts”, Aon said.

Evert-Jeen van der Meer, industry director automotive, Aon Netherlands explained tests were run early this year on automated systems like lane keeping assist, to determine whether they contributed to a safer driving experience. “It will also contribute to finding a solution for liability and insurance issues regarding fully or semi-automated transportation.”

And data collected by the car will make litigation more straightforward. “More sophisticated data collection should also clarify identifying the source of mechanical failure and determining culpability, as well as help to curtail fraudulent ‘crash-for-cash’ claims,” Aon says.