UnipolRe CEO Marc Sordoni, source: UnipolRe
Motor liability is unlikely to disappear with the emergence of self-driving cars because the critical decisions will remain the responsibility of the driver, UnipolRe CEO Marc Sordoni told Intelligent Insurer.
Car manufacturers are currently introducing new technology that makes driving safer such as lane assist or automatic emergency braking. But companies like Google, Uber and Tesla are researching on self-driving cars which could, theoretically, move the insurance liability completely to the manufacturer from the driver in case of an accident.
“We believe that motor liability will continue to exist because the driver will be the one taking the final decisions and therefore has the liability,” Sordoni said.
Tesla does, for example, stress that the autopilot of its cars “is an assist feature that requires you to keep your hands on the steering wheel at all times”, and that “you need to maintain control and responsibility for your vehicle” while using it.
“The active driving assistance should reduce claims and the gravity of claims, but it will never completely avoid them. It will create some additional challenges such as hackers taking control of cars, so some general liability insurance may have to be added there.”
Transferring the autonomy of driving completely to the machine would require the navigating technology to respect some rules and apply certain algorithms, Sordoni explained. Providers of autopilot cars will reasonably try to minimise accidents, but as a result, in a situation where the car has to decide between killing six people or only one, which would be the driver himself, the car would choose the latter option, he said. “Would you be willing to sit in such a car?”
Sordoni refers to the aviation sector when assessing the future of the motor industry. Despite of the fact that planes are much more expensive, include a lot more high-end technology, and operate in an environment with strictest traffic rules, they are not able to be completely self-piloted. “Imagine a car which is much cheaper and in a less regulated environment,” Sordoni stressed.
Another obstacle for self-driving cars may be the fact that technology may not be able to foresee the actions of human drivers, which would be required as the operating fleet, is unlikely to be replaced with self-driving cars at once. A transitional period would therefore see self-driving cars sharing the road network with human drivers.
“While self-driving cars would be much more efficient, this will not happen anytime soon,” Sordoni believes. “Artificial intelligence is struggling to understand and interpret human inconsistency in driving behaviour.”
However, he concedes, “it’s still early days.”
Marc Sordoni will be speaking at the InsurTECH Europe conference in London on October 3rd.
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