Vehicle connectivity changing the game

To the driver of the typical car today, a 10.7 year-old vehicle in the EU, connected features such as active park assist, lane-keeping or driver alert systems can seem a long way in the future. But the connected world is here, it is real now, and almost every premium vehicle sold today connects to the Internet to offer some form of personalised services.

As far back as 2016, BMW Connected became standard on all models, with smarter vehicle control and services for email, news, weather and other text-to-speech functions. Other programmes such as Ford’s Sync 3 and GM’s On Star became standard way back in 2014.

Increasingly automatic functions are driving the technology content of vehicles, and changing who is in control, starting with feet off (cruise control) to hands off (beginning with temporary hands off, lane assist) to eyes off (semi-autonomy) to brain off (full autonomy).

The car is increasingly part of the connected ecosystem. By 2020, 20% of all vehicles on the road worldwide will have some form of network connection, equivalent to 250 million connected vehicles.

The proliferation of vehicle connectivity has implications across the major functional areas of insurance telematics, automated driving, infotainment and mobility services.

‘The vehicle is very much a part of the Internet of Things,’ commented Dr George Gillespie, CEO of MIRA. ‘It could very well end up being the biggest data source, with connected cars generating data at the rate of 25 gigabytes per day, rising to 300 terabytes, which is the data estimated to be generated by an autonomous vehicle per year.’

But what does all of this mean for the automotive companies and insurance providers in the long term? After all, we are talking about highly-complex vehicles, much more challenging in terms of technology and risk than what insurance deals with today.

By 2021 the UK government intends the country to be well on its way to a driverless future. A legal review is underway to determine some legal questions that will impact on insurance.

Everyone agrees that the period of highest risk will be the ‘fuzzy middle’, the hybrid period when autonomous and driven vehicles will share the roads, and the period of handover when a driver could be suddenly requested by the vehicle to take back control.

There are going to be many factors and technologies to deliver the final product.

There is a popular view that the technology could move quickly beyond autonomy, effectively leaping over this most dangerous phase. Drivers are still necessary in cars but are able to completely shift ‘safety-critical functions’ to the vehicle, under certain traffic or environmental conditions. It means that the driver is still present and will intervene if necessary, but is not required to monitor the situation in the same way as for the previous levels.

In so far as control of the vehicle is going to flip between the human and the machine, for insurance the future is likely to mean a move to real-time risk assurance.

The connected vehicle is going to become the most complex and the most data-rich platform, creating huge challenges for digital vehicle resilience, for identifying critical risks and designing against them.