- Where Insurance & Technology Meet

2020 for Self Driving Cars: The Future of Automobiles and Regulations

Back in 2013, Catherine Kargas, Vice-President at MARCON, a Montréal based consultancy, presented several sessions at events.  The focus was self-driving or autonomous vehicles. Attendees were interested, but there was no impact to feature, as the vehicles wouldn’t be allowed on the road for some time.

Fast-forward to today, and we have test autonomous vehicles traveling on highways. The count will grow. Can we handle this?

Questions requiring answers

In a recent article in PropertyCasualty360, Shawn Moynihan, Editor in Chief, National Underwriter, Property & Casualty, notes that by 2020, there could be 10 million autonomous vehicles on the road.  Assuming this is the case, Moynihan says there are two key questions:

  1. Will insurers be able to sort out liability issues that are not fully covered by humans, and
  2. Will consumers be comfortable putting their lives in the hands of the vehicles, not the driver.

Data abound…

To address these questions, Moynihan cites a recent study from J.D. Power and consulting firm Miller Canfield, entitled:  “AV Accidents: Consumers want Clarity on Liability”.

Based on a survey of 1,500 drivers, the analysts found that the consumers are divided almost equally across the board with respect to autonomous vehicles:

14% saying they “definitely would,” and 33% saying they “probably would” compared with 29% saying they “probably would not,” and 17% saying they “definitely would not.

We don’t have data available from previous years, but based on anecdotal information, the trend seems to be in favour of autonomous vehicles.  

Making it work….

So what’s the problem?  Simply put, there is a lot of work to do in a relatively short period of time.  Fully autonomous vehicles take the driver out of the risk category, replaced by many different functions and manufacturers, delivered by many manufacturers.  

As previously noted, cause may or may not be easy to diagnose.

The J.D. Power / Miller Canfield study finds that consumers have realistically hjgh expectations about claims with autonomous vehicles.  Kristin Kolodge, executive director of Human Machine Interface at J.D. Power and co-author of the report, said,  “Sentiment remains fragile towards automated vehicles as consumers are cautious and the need to build trust continues.”

Insurance Bureau of Canada has taken the mantle

In Canada, IBC has taken the mantle.  Reported in Canadian Underwriter, David McGown, SVP of Strategic Initiatives, put the challenges succinctly at the recent AGM: 

In the new paradigm, product failure rather than human error will become the key factor for liability coverage. And we must prepare for a messy transition during a time when fully automated vehicles will share the road with less automated ones.

And there is urgency to effect new regulations.  In 2013, Kargas put forward a time frame and found that 2020 would see fully autonomous vehicles on the road.  Some people laughed. No one is laughing now.

As with Canadian initiatives, regulators in other jurisdictions are developing new regulations.  All of this needs to happen expeditiously.

Unlike some other IT initiatives, the delivery of fully autonomous vehicles is on track.

What do you think?

Regulations are usually as much fun as pulling gum off the bottom of a shoe, but this could be different.  Kargas and others have been predicting  requirements for continuous alterations based on ever-emerging automotive  technologies.  And there are organizations who can coordinate delivery.   

But can we do this in a timely fashion?  Your thoughts?


Catherine Kargas

As I read this posting, my eyes focused on “by 2020, there could be 10 million autonomous vehicles on the road”. Assuming that AVs refer to SAE Level 4 technology, I think this is highly improbable. For most of the companies developing this technology, the focus on delivering vehicles that will operate within ride hailing fleets. Several governments around the world, including at least one provincial government in Canada, support this. Assuming the technology is available and proven, the regulations will not be. This, however, does not mean that the insurance industry can be complacent. The coming months and years will require the industry to understand the issues, participate in consultations and lobby for what is in the best interest of Canadians. Lots of work ahead but it’s an exciting time to be part of the insurance industry.

Patrick Vice,

Thanks, Catherine. I’m checking on the source for the vehicle count.

I do agree that the insurers and regulators need to move quickly on regulations and products. IBC has identified the need and has put senior staff to work. That’s a good sign.


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