Insurers Urge Focus on Safety and Data Sharing in Autonomous Vehicles

May 18, 2018

While automated driving systems hold great promise to save lives and reduce crashes, the focus must remain on validating the safety of the technology every step of the way, according to the National Association of Mutual Insurance Companies (NAMIC).

Fundamental regulatory changes will need to take place to adapt to a world with driverless cars and automated driving systems (ADS), NAMIC says in a new white paper.

“Broad assurances of overall safety must be bolstered by facts and data on ADS design and operation,” writes Tom Karol, general counsel-federal for NAMIC and author of the white paper. “Third-party validation of safety testing will help develop the requisite public, insurer and governmental trust to support further ADS deployment, a goal the insurance industry shares.”

Titled “Validating Safety: The Next Phase in Developing Automated Driving Systems,” the white paper explores the next phase of ADS development, the regulatory landscape and insurers’ role insurers in this technology’s development.

According to the paper, to safely promote the development of driverless vehicles, the regulatory framework must change. “On the one hand, the development of ADS will require a new way to look at the fundamental nature of driving, and that development should not be hindered by requiring outdated safety requirements that do not apply to new technologies,” Karol notes. “However, we must also carefully consider the many implications of the continued evolution of increasingly assisted and automated driving systems. The singular focus must, must, must remain on the safety of vehicle occupants, occupants of other vehicles, and the general public.”

Without a strong regulatory environment, there is an increasing risk that the public trust both in ADS and the government institutions that approve and regulate them may erode, according to the report.

NAMIC also suggests that the insurance industry can play a vital role in keeping the focus on safety based on its industry’s history with organizations such as the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety,

“As technology seeks to remove human error from driving, our industry is working to ensure that the systems that will control our vehicles will live up to the promises the manufacturers make,” Karol says.

NAMIC says that to keep safety in focus, automated vehicle manufacturers and services must provide third parties with complete and accurate data from tests and when crashes occur in order for insurers to do their part.

Current state and federal laws rely largely on voluntary information sharing but to date information about ADS development in general and safety specifically has been limited. NAMIC argues for “defined, transparent data standards” that it says will foster better understanding of automated vehicles and their operation.

“Basic ADS design decisions such as whether to utilize vehicle-to-vehicle communication systems or to include an ’emergency stop control’ remain subject to internal corporate debate, technical questions, and related business considerations,” NAMIC notes, adding that insurers understand confidential information and have deep experience in data security.

NAMIC questions whether the current system of “voluntary self-certification by manufacturers of the safety of ADS” is adequate to enable the development and public acceptance of safe ADS.

“Only by providing access to more and better data for independent testing and analysis can manufacturers help prove their cars are just as safe, if not safer, for their occupants than non-automated vehicles on the road today,” the organization says.

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