Two representatives of the mutual property/casualty insurance industry voiced support for the continued development of automated vehicle technology today on Capitol Hill and stressed the importance of insurers in helping shape that development.
Ryan Gammelgard, counsel for the Public Policy Resource Group at State Farm Mutual Insurance Company, and Sam Geraci, vice president of strategy for American Family Mutual Insurance Company, spoke for the industry at a House Financial Services Subcommittee on Housing and Insurance hearing titled “The Impact of Autonomous Vehicles on the Future of Insurance.” Both companies are members of the National Association of Mutual Insurance Companies’ Automated Vehicles Council, which explores the public policy issues surrounding AV technology.
“As it was with the dawn of the automobile at the turn of the last century, the insurance industry’s input on issues surrounding the development of AVs is critical,” Geraci said at the hearing. “And just as with the established and active advocacy for seat belts and air bags, auto insurance companies can work with auto manufacturers and safety advocates to develop and implement commercial standards that can save lives.”
A critical component of AV standard development, Geraci added, would be data access for insurers as well as other stakeholders in AV development. “This type of objective and independent validation is exactly what is needed to help consumers, technology companies, and vehicle makers understand the safety of AV systems, features, and operations,” he said, “but we cannot provide that validation without data.”
Gammelgard went on to note that insurers “support developments that have the promise of saving lives and avoiding injuries, including higher levels of automation associated with automated driving systems.” But he also cautioned that “while ADS will reduce or eliminate some risks that drivers face today, new risks are likely to emerge.”
Despite the rise of AV technology, the need for individual insurance protection will remain. “While we are incredibly optimistic about the promise of the technology to reduce fatalities and improve the safety of our nation’s roadways, recent accidents with AVs have clearly underscored the need to better understand autonomous vehicle safety,” Geraci said. For the foreseeable future, “consumers will continue to look to property/casualty insurers to provide them with the protections they have come to expect.”
Gammelgard and Geraci’s testimony came on the heels of the release of a new NAMIC policy paper on the issue, Validating Safety: The Next Phase in Developing Automated Driving Systems. NAMIC’s paper explores the fundamental regulatory changes that will be needed in a post-“driver” world along with the need for independent verification of safety claims made by automated vehicle manufacturers.