AUTONOMOUS CARS: WHAT ARE THE PROSPECTS FOR 2021 CONCERNING THE LATEST MEDIA AND REGULATORY DEVELOPMENTS?

For several years, the major automotive industrial groups and even the GAFA (Google Car, Apple with the “Titan” project) have embarked on the race for the autonomous car without any commercialized solution has yet emerged. actual hour. The regulations are still in their infancy and the latest developments on this subject sometimes give the impression of visual navigation without any real certainty on the landing. State of the art of the latest news on this subject …

The autonomous vehicle: reality or fantasy?

On November 19, 2019, at the Detroit Economic Club, Jim Hackett, president of Ford and former head of the autonomous vehicles department, admitted “we overestimated the arrival of autonomous vehicles […] because the problem is complex”

Indeed, the huge costs and the eminently complex technical challenges, associated with uncertainty about the regulations, make manufacturers fear a lack of return on investment. It is in this difficult context and after the frenzy of program launches at the beginning of the 2010s, that the CEO of the Peugeot group announced the end of the development of any vehicle level 4 and above (see table below editor’s note) during of the last Geneva Motor Show. A parallel can easily be drawn with the aeronautics industry where the discontinuation of the Concorde programs or the recent A380 (even if the latter have flown) was mainly motivated by questions of commercial profitability despite the technological leap. that they represented.

At present, therefore, except for a few unmarketed prototypes, no autonomous car is still driving on the roads and the outlook for this market seems more gloomy than it seemed a few years ago. 

The undisputed rise of the semi-autonomous vehicle 

An autonomous car is an “intelligent” vehicle equipped with a large number of technological innovations coupled with a central computer, itself equipped with artificial intelligence allowing decisions to be made without human action on the conduct to be adopted on the road.

Before reaching this result, intermediate stages of autonomy are possible depending on the number and nature of on-board technologies. Car manufacturers have already integrated certain driving assistance technologies (lane crossing, path correctors, reversing cameras, park assist, cruise control, audible warning devices, emergency braking, etc.) in their production vehicles. These innovations have become the norm and no longer the exception, as evidenced by the presence of some of these innovations on Dacia brand vehicles, known for their very attractive prices, for example.

The growth of these driving aids has been so rapid that the market is expected to exceed $ 100 billion worldwide by 2025, according to Swiss Re, the world leader in reinsurance.

Other industrial groups have integrated much more complex driving assistance systems into their vehicles, thus making it possible to qualify their vehicles as semi-autonomous. This is the case, for example, of the manufacturer Tesla, where the technological progress made in recent years is remarkable and sometimes bordering on the sensational (for example Tesla’s “Smart Summon” option allows you to call your car remotely to get it. recover, the car moving alone); even if they sometimes still don’t seem quite successful …

Insurers choose innovation

All of these innovations and assistive technologies increase the safety of the vehicle and its occupants by de facto reducing the likelihood of an accident. Insurers record fewer claims on a like-for-like basis and more and more, therefore, offer reductions of up to -20% on insurance premiums, provided they insure a vehicle with this equipment. The issue has become paramount for insurers who are constantly forced to adapt to new developments, reorganize themselves, and innovate themselves in an increasingly competitive sector.

Innovation doesn’t just lie in the auto insurance products they offer. They invest in autonomous vehicle projects in the order in particular to improve their knowledge of the risk associated with these vehicles. There are many examples, for example very recently with the “Driven” project where the Oxbotica company successfully tested an autonomous car in an urban environment in the United Kingdom, in partnership with a large French insurance group.

Insurers are dependent on the sectors in which they insure products. Who says innovation in the automotive sector, says innovation in the way of ensuring these vehicles. This turning point has already been noticed for several years by the advent of new pricing systems. For example, insurers have sometimes set aside the system of fixed premiums in favor of more personalized insurance and dynamic pricing. The “pay as you drive” system is no longer an exception and insurers are starting to prepare to ensure vehicles where no human intervention will be the cause of the loss.

The arrival of autonomous cars is also conducive to the development of a reflection on the installation of black boxes in vehicles, as is customary to find in airliners. The step has never been taken in Europe and insurers were generally not in favor of this system, particularly for cost issues. This system will probably be mandatory in self-driving cars but it is quite likely that the cost will be borne by the manufacturers because it will be the computer brain of the vehicle. All the data recorded (location, speed, angle of impact) will be used to understand the exact circumstances of the accident and possibly to decide on liability.

Regulations still in their infancy

The eternal question of responsibility

From the moment the autonomous car concept was invented, the question of liability in the event of a claim very quickly arose. Behind this thorny question, it is a real headache for insurers … and the legislator.

Will the responsibility weigh on the manufacturer? On the subcontractor behind the autonomous driving software? On the company in charge of transmitting geolocation data?

The issue has still not been decided at this time as Tesla recently communicated that its cars can already be driven in Autopilot without the driver having to take any action, if not. it’s keeping your hands on the wheel and watching your surroundings.

Beyond the regulatory aspect, there are also ethical issues, particularly following certain recent current events, whether fatal accidents in the United States involving prototypes of autonomous cars or the behavior considered irresponsible of certain owners of semi-vehicles. -autonomous ( in this case a vehicle traveling in Autopilot for several kilometers with the driver presumed to be asleep ).

Even though states and insurers are currently working on the issue, it is important to clarify that at present, and regardless of the amount of driving aids available in the vehicle, the driver remains 100% responsible for his vehicle.

The recent adoption of the mobility orientation law

The French legislator has finally started an embryonic reflection on this hot topic which has been causing commentators to react for many years. On November 19, the Parliament definitively adopted the mobility orientation law (LOM) evoking the subject of autonomous vehicles while addressing a much broader spectrum, namely the improvement of mobility in France through the proposal of solutions. alternatives to the car and the consideration of environmental issues.

This law empowers the government to build a legal framework to allow entry into the service of autonomous vehicles from 2020 for collective shuttles and from 2022 for private vehicles. As of 2020, it has been decided that 16 cities in France will test the circulation of robot-taxis on the road. The debates in the hemicycle, however, highlighted the problems that this could represent in terms of adaptation of the current legal insurance framework. By an amendment adopted in committee “the government prefers to give itself time and extend by one year the period initially provided for legislating by ordinance on this legal framework and the level of responsibility applicable to this still new area and which also depends on international texts. under review ” 

New driver assistance technologies are forcing insurers to reinvent themselves, review their models, innovate and personalize their offers to better retain customers who have become much more demanding and just as volatile.

The self-driving car will eventually arrive on our roads but potentially not on the scale many initially imagined it to be. Also, many customers buy a car for the pleasure of driving it, and car manufacturers are well aware of this. However, we are eager to see what liability regime will be proposed by the legislator for these vehicles of a new kind and just as much to see whether the products offered by insurers will be as innovative as the vehicles in which we may be driving tomorrow.

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