The Autonomous Report: Self-driving presents insurance challenges, and another Tesla crashes while on Autopilot

Two views of the crashed Tesla Model X in Montana. The driver says Autopilot was engaged at the time of the crash.

By Jeff Sanford

Toronto, Ontario — July 17, 2016 — Every week seems to bring more developments in autonomous vehicles (AVs). Last week we saw Nissan move forward by introducing its ProPILOT on vehicles that will be available in Japan later this summer. In addition, a new report suggests that autonomous cars will see auto insurer fighting for a bigger share of a shrinking market, autonomous vehicle producers are getting more serious about safety and another Tesla Model X crashes with the Autopilot engaged.

– A report from ABI Research suggests, “Autonomous Cars Will See Automotive Insurers Fight for a Bigger Share of a Shrinking Market,” according to a press release distributed by the organization.

“Recent reports suggest that automatic emergency braking (AEB) has the potential to reduce front-to-rear collisions by about 40 percent, with vehicles fitted with AEB affording their users a discount of around 10 percent … Given that automotive insurance accounted for 42 percent of the entire general insurance industry in 2015, this trend is not one that insurers cannot afford to overlook.”

The release goes on to suggest that there will be new insurance opportunities for providers in the AV age, such as cybersecurity.

“Further opportunity comes from risks associated with the supporting technologies for autonomous technology, particularly as they relate to cybersecurity. Autonomous driving will have a profound effect on how mobility is consumed, with the transition from car ownership to ride sharing opening up new opportunities for specialists in product insurance,” according to the report.

– A Reuters report suggests AV producers are getting more serious about legal liability in the wake of the first fatality of a driver of a self-driving car. Joshua Brown became the first person to die in an AV accident when his Tesla Model X crashed while the Autopilot was engaged. Regulators are said to be taking a closer look at the regulations surrounding the evolving industry as a result.

“Alphabet Inc’s Google self-driving car project said on Monday it appointed its first general counsel, as U.S. regulators increase their scrutiny of autonomous vehicles,” according to the report from Reuters. “The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said in March it was collecting information after a Google self-driving car struck a municipal bus in California in a minor crash. But it did not open a formal probe … The agency has also opened a formal investigation into the May 7 death of Joshua Brown who died when his Tesla Motors Model S driver in a Florida crash who was operating in ‘Autopilot’ mode.”

– Another Tesla accident, this time in Montana. According to a report on Electrek, “The vehicle reportedly veered off road and hit a guardrail made of large wooden posts. The impact destroyed the passenger side of the Model X and detached the front wheel, but fortunately, both occupants were not injured. Following the accident, the driver claimed that the Autopilot veered off road on its own, but Tesla has now issued a statement regarding the accident and claims that the data log shows that the driver didn’t respond to an alert to hold the steering wheel, which they say led to the accident … [The driver] insists that he did not receive alerts, but he also told the news agency that he speaks Mandarin and that the vehicle was set to English.”

The accident occurred on a road “without a centre divider and Tesla doesn’t recommend to use Autosteer in those conditions, which is something the company points out in its statement along with sensors not detecting hands on the wheels after the alert.”

Elon Musk is said to be working on a blog post that will highlight how Autopilot works as a safety system and what drivers are expected to do after they activate it.


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