Personal Lines Pilot

An IRMI e-mail newsletter for personal lines insurance professionals

October 10, 2014 | Issue 135 | ISSN: 1545-9314


Many of our chapter members attend the National conference, this article summarizes one of the sessions.


One of the more interesting sessions at the Chartered Property Casualty Underwriter Society's annual meeting in Anaheim, California, last month was "Tomorrow Today -- Safe Driving Technologies of Tomorrow, Here Today." Considering the fact that autonomous automobiles are making greater strides all the time, this seminar was indeed a timely one. The panel workshop was composed of three skilled presenters, approaching the issue from different perspectives.


Kim Hazelbaker, senior vice president for the Highway Loss Data Institute, led off the session. He discussed some of the latest crash avoidance technology, such as Volvo's City Safety feature. This existing feature is an auto brake technology that assists in reducing or avoiding traffic accidents at speeds up to 31 miles per hour. The technology uses laser sensors that monitor an area approximately 20 feet directly in front of the vehicle. It is programmed to automatically apply the brakes if it determines that a collision is imminent.


Mr. Hazelbaker also discussed the testing of these vehicles by various industries, including Google, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), and auto manufacturers. He emphasized, however, that the insurance industry also wants to be involved in testing these automobiles and their new safety features.


Another panelist, Bernard Soriano, Ph.D., is the deputy director of the California Department of Motor Vehicles. Dr. Soriano claims that 95 percent of traffic fatalities are the result of human error, and semi-autonomous features of future cars will save thousands of lives in the coming years. He believes the biggest barrier to fully autonomous cars will be the human/machine interface.


He discussed the four levels of autonomous cars, as developed by NHTSA.


Level 1: function-specific automation (e.g., electronic stability control)


Level 2: combined function automation (e.g., adaptive cruise control coupled with automated steering)


Level 3: limited self-driving automation (e.g., Google's car where human driver is expected to be available for occasional control)


Level 4: full self-driving automation (e.g., human indicates the destination and the auto handles the rest)


Patrick Woods, an assistant vice president with the Insurance Services Office, Inc., concluded the panel discussion. He claimed that there are a host of unresolved insurance issues raised by autonomous cars. Some of the key questions he posed include:

  • Who owns the data that the autonomous car is producing?
  • With all the auto recalls we are seeing today, can we trust the auto manufacturer and the developer of the autonomous software? 
  • What about the hacking risk? 
  • Will the rules of product liability apply to the software of autonomous cars? If the claims are higher than expected, the product liability approach may prove too cumbersome.

The consensus from the panel was that the legal and insurance issues will lag behind the technological changes, and our industry must work hard to "catch up." So what do you think? What challenges lie ahead for our industry in the wake of these upcoming semiautonomous and autonomous autos? Please share your thoughts with others in the IRMI Personal Lines Insurance Forum on LinkedIn.


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All the best,



Robin K. Olson, CPCU, CRIS, ARM



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