Canadian Underwriter

Autonomous vehicles could shrink U.S. personal auto insurance sector by 60% within 25 years: KPMG

October 26, 2015   by Canadian Underwriter

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A decline in accident frequency due to safer vehicles and the adoption of autonomous vehicles could shrink the personal auto insurance sector by in the United States by 60% within 25 years, according to a new report from audit, tax and advisory services firm KPMG LLP.

KPMG’s Insurance practice estimates an 80% potential reduction in accident frequency by 2040. “This will result in a potentially drastic reduction in loss costs and premiums, though KPMG estimates that accident expense could increase from almost US$14,000 currently to roughly US$35,000,” KPMG said in a statement last week. [click image below to enlarge]

According to the insurance executives surveyed, most respondents believe the effects of self-driving vehicles will not have a significant impact on their business over the next decade

“Autonomous vehicles are poised to completely transform the auto insurance industry, and underlying market forces, including technology enablement, consumer adoption and regulatory permission, are already aligning to enable mass change,” said Jerry Albright, principal in KPMG’s Actuarial and Insurance Risk practice, in the statement. “The risk profile of vehicles is changing daily and the subsequent drop in industry loss costs would reduce the size of the auto insurance market, trigger consolidation in the personal lines space, attract new competitors and force dramatic operational changes within carriers.”

Albright added that nearly accident-free vehicles could be here before autonomous vehicles, and “while a shift in business strategy could take years, insurers must act now to differentiate themselves and gain a first-mover advantage.”

As the size of the auto insurance pie shrinks, the allocation of the slices across personal auto, commercial auto, and products liability could also change, according to KPMG’s analysis, outlined in the research report titled Marketplace of Change: Automobile Insurance in the Era of Autonomous Vehicles.

“Commercial lines could take a larger share, as the marketplace moves towards car sharing and mobility on demand services,” said Alex Bell, managing director in KPMG’s CIO Advisory practice. “As the vehicle makes more decisions, the potential liability of the software developer and manufacturer will increase too. In addition, losses covered by products liability policies will most likely increase because the sophisticated technology that underpins driverless vehicles will also need to be insured.” [click image below to enlarge]

42% of respondents to KPMG’s 2015 Automobile Insurance in the Era of Autonomous Vehicles Survey said that driverless vehicles will result in the emergence of niche writers over the next 10 years

Chris Nyce, principal in KPMG’s Actuarial and Insurance Risk practice, added that the personal auto lines sector will likely bear the brunt of the transformation, as it will hold a smaller share of a smaller market. “By 2040, we believe this sector will cover less than US$50 billion in loss costs in nominal dollars, compared with the current US$125 billion, with premiums moving nearly proportional,” Nyce said. “The shrinkage in real terms may be even greater.”

KPMG anticipates “severe implications” of a contracting premium environment, especially given that the insurance industry as a whole has not generated an underwriting profit in personal or commercial auto for several years in a “normal” market environment. Joe Schneider, managing director at KPMG Corporate Finance LLC, said the continued proliferation of automated vehicles will put considerable strain on carriers.

“Many insurers don’t have a profitability cushion to erode and lack the structural agility to shed costs quickly in an environment of rapid change,” Schneider said in the statement. “Once the massive market disruption begins and traditional insurance business models are flipped upside down, we expect significant turmoil across the industry.”

KPMG has identified four possible business strategies for insurers:

• Consolidate: For those existing carriers with scale, consider acquisition opportunities to leverage large existing platforms;

• Diversify: Move into other products that could potentially shield from challenges across the personal and commercial auto lines of business;

• Innovate: With new areas of risk, identify new areas to provide insurance protection and launch new products to meet needs; and

• Partner and ally: Consider new business models, which will likely require partnering with others, where insurance could be embedded into the cost of a vehicle or part of usage fees.