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  • Driverless cars: how we’re helping to drive them forwards.

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  • At AXA, we’re hugely excited by the potential benefits of a future with driverless cars.

    Safer roads are the principal prize. It’s been estimated that the shift to autonomous vehicles could bring about a 93% reduction in accidents by 20401. And since road accidents are the leading cause of death among those aged 15-292, many thousands of lives are likely to be saved.

    “Babies born today may never have to take a driving test”

    Amanda Blanc  
    AXA UK Chief Executive

    In addition, driverless cars will make it easier for the elderly and disabled to get around, enabling them to go on playing a full and active part in society. People who cannot drive – whether they are too young or have simply never learned – will enjoy greater mobility and independence.

    Traffic will move faster, parking will become easier, and data will be used to suggest routes and offer personalised recommendations.

    And let’s not forget the financial benefits, since fewer accidents will mean lower premiums. Morgan Stanley has estimated overall global financial savings at £3.7 trillion – these savings coming not just from a reduced number of accidents, but productivity improvements and lower fuel costs. All of which will have a positive impact by bringing insurance premiums down.

    Intensely involved

    Because we can see how these vehicles will make life better and safer for so many people, we’re playing a key part in enabling this technology to reach our roads. A key part of this role is to question the status quo. Some of the questions we’re asking ourselves and more broadly the insurance industry are:

    • Can someone in the car be held responsible for an accident when they’re not controlling the car? Does responsibility now shift to the manufacturer, or maybe to the software developer?
    • How do we take account of different levels of automation in different vehicles? Or the transitional period when there will still be conventional driver-controlled cars on the road?

    We’re working with four separate projects in the UK, as well as liaising with the Government to work out exactly what car insurance will look like in the future. A wide range of complex questions need to be explored, we’re still in the early stages and eager to keep developing answers.

     

    VENTURER

    One of the projects we’re involved with is VENTURER, in which we work closely with the Bristol Robotics Laboratory (BRL).

    BRL, a partnership between the University of the West of England and the University of Bristol, is a world leader in current thinking on intelligent autonomous systems and an internationally-recognised Centre of Excellence in Robotics.

    However, it’s not all about the technology, as Tony Pipe, Professor of Robotics and Autonomous Systems, points out:

    “The main measurable objectives of the project are actually user acceptability, effects on insurability and legality, and AXA are clearly very involved in the last two of those.”

    “Who is liable, what is liable, what is that chain of liability?”

    - Daniel O’Byrne  

    Levels of liability

    As the following film explains, there are tricky questions to tackle with regard to liability and responsibility, particularly when there are different levels of vehicle autonomy to take account of.

    Levels on the SAE scale of autonomy range from 0 (where the car does nothing by itself) to 5 (where there is no human input at all). Each level has issues of liability to resolve, but Level 4 is undoubtedly the trickiest.

    “Level 4 vehicles might be available in the late 2020s or early 2030s.”

    - Professor Tony Pipe  
    Bristol Robotics Laboratory

    At this level, the driver can choose between manual and automated modes – and when a button is pressed to put the car into automated mode, responsibility to do the right thing clearly shifts elsewhere. Professor Tony Pipe again:

    “At Level 4, responsibility passes from the person who's still sitting in the vehicle to somebody else, possibly the car manufacturer, the vehicle manufacturer, the insurance company, the legal system itself. What will be important, in terms of this technology advance being a success, is making that shift look as seamless as possible, for the purchaser and owner of the vehicle, or the person who's in the vehicle experiencing it.”

     

    Securing a smooth transition

    We’ve done a lot of work at AXA to ensure the seamless shift which Professor Tony Pipe talks about. As Daniel O’Byrne, Head of Public Affairs at AXA UK comments in the film above:

    “The great thing about the law that we’ve helped Government to craft is that from an end consumer perspective, there will be no difference to now. It’s the status quo, and it’s been deliberately designed that way to make sure that we instil consumer trust.”

    (It’s rare that we’re ever satisfied with the status quo at AXA, but on this occasion it has taken much thought and effort to achieve.)

     

    Continuing to tackle concerns

    Of course, there are many more questions and emerging risks to consider and address in the years ahead. For example:

    • How do we take account of the transitional period – which could last decades – when there will still be conventional driver-controlled cars on the road?
    • Could autonomous vehicles be at risk of data theft and malicious interference by hackers?
    • Will there be a breakdown of the idea of car ownership altogether, with people instead having a leasing arrangement with a company and calling for a driverless vehicle to come and collect them as and when they need it?

    These issues will not be simple to solve. But the huge benefits of this new technology to society make us more than ready to take on the challenge.

    As projects go, helping to steer driverless cars towards the future is one we’re very proud of.


  • All the projects we’re working with


    The VENTURER project is looking at the technology that enables autonomous vehicles and at the way users respond to it. By understanding the public’s reaction to driverless vehicles and the way we behave, the project will work out what is needed for the technology to be successfully adopted.

    The VENTURER trials are also heavily focused on understanding the insurance and legal implications of increased vehicle autonomy.

    See how the trials are going in their latest report

    UK Autodrive is a programme led by engineering and consultancy firm Arup, but also involving forward-thinking local authorities as well as the UK’s leading technology and automotive businesses and academic institutions.

    Running for three years until October 2018, the project has been staging a number of trials examining technologies and the integration of driverless vehicles into existing urban environments.

    Trial 1 – Integration of autonomous and connected vehicles into real-world urban environments.

    Trial 2 - Showing how autonomous and connected vehicles could solve challenges such as congestion.

    Trial 3 - Demonstrating the commercial operation of electric-powered self-driving ‘pods’ on a city scale.

    Trial 4 - Providing insight to key decision-makers, including legislators, insurers and investors.

    The FLOURISH project is addressing vulnerabilities in the technology which powers automated vehicles, with a focus on the critical areas of cyber security and wireless communications.

    It aims to develop products and services that will maximise the benefits of connected and autonomous vehicles for both users and transport authorities. By adopting a user-centred approach, FLOURISH will achieve a better understanding of consumer demands and expectations, including the implications and challenges of an ageing society.

    Read their latest Insurance and Legal report

    The Capri project will deliver a pilot scheme that could pave the way for connected and autonomous vehicles to move people around airports, hospitals, business parks, shopping and tourist centres.

    Led by consulting engineering firm AECOM, it includes the design, development and testing of new driverless and connected pods-on-demand (PODs), culminating in on-road public trials at London’s Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.

    As an insurer, we’re underwriting the PODs during the trials, enabling the project to investigate technologies that will allow the vehicles to navigate safely and seamlessly in both pedestrian and road environments. We’ll also be advising Capri on insurance-related issues throughout the project.

    It’s clear that there’s still a lot to do before driverless cars become a mainstream reality – with lots of complex questions requiring answers. We’re proud to be playing such an important role in this technological development that will have a huge impact on our society as a whole and individual lives day to day.


  • Source:
    1Thatcham: http://www.thatcham.org/car-safety/automatic-braking/
    2KPMG LLP actuarial analysis

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