Toronto, Ontario — With autonomous vehicle (AV) initiatives in Ontario going from a sci-fi pipe dream to receiving millions in government investment dollars in only a few years, Vice President of personal insurance at Travelers Insurance, Caleb Earnest declared that “The world of AVs is clearly upon us”, during a webinar on Tuesday.
As part of a panel discussion led by Travelers executive v-p of public policy Joan Woodward, Earnest delved into the current state of autonomous driving in Canada, from the insurer’s perspective, and explored the ways in which insurance firms and government must interact to ensure the safest possible deployment of fully-autonomous vehicles in Canada.
Earnest said that government and industry must meet in order to build AV-compatible infrastructure on top of pre-existing Ontario road systems, as AVs will make up an increasing portion of vehicles on the road, but will still need to co-operate with traditional user-operated vehicles for the foreseeable future.
As well, the potential for AVs to streamline the collision repair process was also addressed, allowing for vehicle data to reduce guesswork from estimating and parts sourcing. He asserts that the insurance industry should play a central role in policymaking and stakeholder decisions.
Earnest’s claims were supplemented by figures provided by Tasneem Essaji, director of Ontario’s Transportation Planning Branch.
According to current government of Ontario data, 50 percent of vehicles are expected to be automated by 2050 in Ontario, with the overall AV market size expected to reach over $60 billion by 2030.
Essaji spoke to the need for an adequate legislative framework for AVs to be put in place, in order to fully capitalize on the potential Ontario has to be a leader in this industry. She said that educating pedestrians, cyclists and other non-drivers on AVs is also an almost equally important step in making sure automated vehicles are deployed properly.
Woodward, as host of the panel, assured viewers that Travelers Insurance will continue to lead webinars on the topic of AVs in the coming months.
Travelers released a position statement on the topic of AVs on Monday, and highlighted a few key points from the report:
- The auto insurance industry should—and will—also play a critical role, as lawmakers, regulators and society adapt to the newest mode of transportation.
- Travelers supports all measures that help ensure the safety of our roadways and believes AVs ultimately will benefit society by reducing the number of crashes, injuries and lives lost.
- However, it will be important to address a transportation system that includes AVs in a comprehensive manner and in a way that spurs innovation, increases public safety, provides peace of mind, and protects Canadian drivers and consumers.
- All key stakeholders must work together to advance the AV industry and have already begun to do so. Policy-makers and regulators across all levels of government in Canada are getting involved in the development and rollout of AVs.