Why Insurance Companies Could Decide Your Future Route To Work

Fri 4th May 2018

The future of automated vehicles is exciting many, with the prospect of a driverless car one thought to be the betterment of road travel overall. But transport expert are suggesting drivers will have even less control over their travel plans than even they might think.

Research from the influential MIT Technology Review has suggested that motor insurers will be given influence over what route your car takes. With risk assessment and route algorithms a major element of driverless cars, it would make sense that those with the most expertise in risk assessment, insurers, would have a large say.

The MIT Technology Review is saying the influence of insurers could lead to autonomous vehicles being made ready for sale sooner.

Paul Newman, a professor at Oxford University and co-founder of driverless project Oxbotica, told MIT Technology Review: "Insurers can adjust the envelope [in which a car can operate] to control the risk on the policy.

"The autonomy system has insurance built into it that allows it to control risk over a fleet.

“When these vehicles are running, they’re doing mathematics—the outputs of which are probabilities about things, on which decisions are made,” explains Newman. “How sure are they of their position on the road, the color of a traffic signal, or the speed of an oncoming vehicle?”

Newman suggests that insurance companies could step-in when a car spots danger ahead, and to reduce the risks would ask the car to slow down or divert the car onto another route.

Though the thought of your insurer controlling your speed and route may seem too intrusive, some policyholders are already receiving discounted policies by allowing insurance companies monitor their speeds by using an onboard computer.

“If insurers are willing to account for the uncertainties, then it may speed up testing,” says Jack Stilgoe, a senior lecturer at University College London who specializes in the governance of emerging technologies.