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YIPT autonomous vehicles panel addresses product liability, future need for personal auto insurance


April 22, 2016   by Canadian Underwriter


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The first fully autonomous cars could be in showrooms in a few years, attendees to the Young Insurance Professionals of Toronto (YIPT) second annual Speaker Panel Series heard last week.

“You will see the first fully autonomous cars in showrooms by year 2020,” predicted Barrie Kirk, co-founder and executive director of the Canadian Automated Vehicles Centre of Excellence, and one of the speakers at The Future of Insurance in the Age of Autonomous Vehicles panel, held at the Toronto Marriott Hotel on April 14.

Panellists at The Future of Insurance in the Age of Autonomous Vehicles panel. Photo courtesy of YIPT.

The panel addressed a number of looming questions, including the shift to product liability and the future need for personal auto insurance. “Without question, autonomous cars will bring a great social benefit in the form of reduced severity and frequency of claims,” added Chris Reid, director of strategy at Intact Financial Corporation. “But I don’t think this spells the end of personal lines insurance, as much as an evolution of carriers towards a different perspective on risk.”

Scott Cober, national transportation practice leader at Marsh Canada, agreed, saying that “insurance will not disappear, but it will evolve into something else. We are going to see considerable change in distribution, consolidation and a shift in consumer behavior and this may require changes to current regulations.”

As panellists discussed issues ranging from claims management to potential new market entrants, YIPT said in a press release on Friday, what became clear is that society will be challenged by the period of transition; that is, when emerging autonomous vehicles will first come into mass interaction with human drivers. “In tests conducted by Google, people were quick to get comfortable with technology,” Kirk said, “but this also resulted in them doing even more stupid and silly things… which led Google to do away with human drivers altogether.”

033At the same time, Reid noted that “there is a real opportunity to help us eliminate some issues around fraud through a more streamlined process in claims management. It will bring a lot more transparency into the system.”

Among other items discussed by the panel was cybersecurity and the implications of having connected cars, which both collect a lot of information on individual drivers and share that information between themselves and facilitating infrastructure. One “glaring risk” highlighted by the panellists, the press release said, was the “inability to fully protect autonomous vehicles from cyber hacking.”

YIPT is a not-for-profit, Toronto-based group that brings together young professionals within the insurance industry, with the majority of members in their 20s and 30s.