Destined to Disrupt: The rise of the self-driving car

Other parts of this series:


Last week, I kicked off this series about technologies that were hyped to be the next disruptive force in the industry, by examining Google Compare . This week, I am examining whether self-driving cars have lived up to the decade of hype that has surrounded them and whether the technology truly is disruptive.

First, it should be noted that the introduction of Tesla’s Auto Pilot in 2015 officially placed self-driving cars on U.S. and Canadian roads. While not totally “self-driving” this assistive driving package means that drivers can travel for long periods on the highway without having to take control of their vehicle. Other car manufacturers have quickly introduced their own technologies and are rolling them out in new models. Uber has introduced self-driving taxis in Pittsburgh that are currently ferrying passengers to their destinations within the city (with a chaperone sitting behind the steering wheel for legal and initial safety reasons). Sixteen car manufacturers are developing self-driving technologies for their vehicles, with big players such as Ford and Honda expecting to add autonomous vehicles to their offerings by as early as 2020.

The insurance industry is slowly rising to the challenge of covering autonomous vehicles. Actuaries are working to determine how a dramatic reduction in auto premium revenue will impact their organizations. Several insurers are partnering with auto manufacturers so that they can have a seat at the table to learn more about the technologies and have a say when discussions on how the AI will respond in certain emergency situations (Ie. Swerve into traffic to avoid an unexpected pedestrian or hit them) and other issues are tabled. Other insurers are working on a completely new set of underwriting and rating factors that consider brand new variables.

Tesla isn’t waiting for the industry to catch up. In several regions, the company has partnered with local carriers to offer “InsureMyTesla” to ensure that their customers have easy access to insurance. In the UK, things have progressed to the point where carrier Adrian Flux introduced the first personal driverless car insurance policy, beating the larger players to market.

Are autonomous cars the disruptive force that pundits predicted in 2010? Not quite yet. But there can be no doubt that the technology is indeed coming very quickly and insurers who do not have a plan to respond will find themselves fighting to catch-up, come 2020.

Next week, I will look at the status of the sharing economy and its impact on the insurance industry.

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