The evo­lu­tion has be­gun

NZ Business - - INNOVATION -

THE IN­NO­VA­TION OF au­ton­o­mous ve­hi­cles will one day pro­foundly change the world.

Sup­port­ing the safe in­tro­duc­tion of these driver­less ve­hi­cles as a new way to help solve trans­port and safety prob­lems for our cus­tomers is crit­i­cal for the fu­ture.

That’s why we saw in­sur­ing the new 15-seater elec­tric shut­tle bus at Christchurch Air­port as an op­por­tu­nity to get be­hind in­no­va­tion that will even­tu­ally be­come main­stream. As in­sur­ers, we have a key role to play in the adop­tion of these driver­less ve­hi­cles to en­sure cus­tomer trust, pro­tec­tion and safety on our roads.

The shut­tle bus is pow­ered by elec­tric­ity and has no driv­ing con­trols what­so­ever. It is ex­pected to op­er­ate at around 25kph al­though it can travel at speeds up to 45kph.

HMI Tech­nolo­gies pur­chased the ve­hi­cle from Navya in France for the pur­pose of con­duct­ing tri­als here in New Zealand. It is part of a trial which could lead to more of these ve­hi­cles trans­port­ing pas­sen­gers around in the fu­ture. The trial will be con­fined to the air­port grounds be­hind fences and won’t be op­er­at­ing within the re­stricted area. There will also be no ex­po­sure to other ve­hi­cles at this stage.

NZI is fo­cused on un­der­stand­ing how au­ton­o­mous ve­hi­cles can im­pact safety and risk, and how we can evolve our prod­ucts and ser­vices to bet­ter meet the fu­ture needs of our cus­tomers.

In the fu­ture we an­tic­i­pate a mix of au­ton­o­mous, semi-au­ton­o­mous and tra­di­tional ve­hi­cles on the roads, and we’ll be evolv­ing our in­surance model to make sure our cus­tomers are pro­tected, re­gard­less of the type of ve­hi­cle they choose to travel in.

The thing with hi-tech equip­ment though is al­ways the cost of re­place­ment if some­thing goes wrong. So it re­quired some crit­i­cal think­ing on our part from the NZI un­der­writ­ing team. In the end min­i­mal changes to our stan­dard pol­icy word­ing were re­quired and the ve­hi­cle doesn’t ac­tu­ally have to be driven in or­der to be insured.

We all know that cars are in­creas­ingly be­ing de­signed with ad­vanced driver as­sis­tance sys­tems ( ADAS) to help make the driv­ing ex­pe­ri­ence safer and more en­joy­able. It’s in­evitable that there’s a nat­u­ral pro­gres­sion to fully au­ton­o­mous – where the driver be­comes a pas­sen­ger and the ve­hi­cle the driver!

It will lead to some sig­nif­i­cant changes in the in­surance in­dus­try and how we in­sure ve­hi­cles for un­ex­pected events in the fu­ture, which is why we’ve been fo­cused on this for some time now.

Through our re­search cen­tre in Aus­tralia, we’ve been ex­plor­ing and test­ing the im­pact cer­tain ve­hi­cle tech­nolo­gies have on safety and risk. We’re en­cour­ag­ing the up­take of new au­ton­o­mous tech­nol­ogy to im­prove the safety of our cus­tomers by of­fer­ing price dis­counts on things like Au­ton­o­mous Emer­gency Brak­ing.

By part­ner­ing with ex­ter­nal in­dus­try and re­search groups we are also work­ing to deepen our un­der­stand­ing of the im­pact this new tech­nol­ogy will have on our roads and cus­tomers.

There’s no deny­ing the ad­van­tage of these con­nected ve­hi­cles. They’re able to gen­er­ate data that has a range of po­ten­tial ap­pli­ca­tions – from help­ing driv­ers bet­ter nav­i­gate their jour­neys, to ve­hi­cle ser­vic­ing alerts and trip-based prod­ucts, not to men­tioned in­creased safety.

It re­ally is a new world, and I for one em­brace it.

By Travis Atkin­son, Ex­ec­u­tive Gen­eral Man­ager, NZI.

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