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Autonomous driving: that's what the insurers say

Autonomous driving
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Driver assistance systems will be used at some point in the course of autonomous driving take full control of the car. To what extent are the insurance companies involved in the development?

R heinländer : Assistance systems that bring about autonomous driving have an impact on the damage. We are hugely interested in that.

Do you see positive or negative effects there?

Rhinelander : We have to see how large an assistance system actually contributes to accident avoidance. Studies by insurers' accident research suggest that such systems can really prevent accidents. For a valid analysis, however, we often lack the information as to whether a system is installed in the car. A key in the vehicle identification number would help us here. Past experience shows that we as insurers first have to analyze something like this in detail: When ABS was introduced, the insurance industry assumed a positive influence on claims and gave an introductory discount of ten percent. Afterwards, however, it even turned out that risk behavior changed - if you have more safety systems in your car, you drive more riskily.

When do you plan to set up a kind of insurance world around the topic of autonomous driving?

Rhinelander: That will still take a while. The basic problem is the legal framework that we currently lack for autonomous driving. Such vehicles are currently not approved for traffic. Liability issues, which are crucial for the protection of traffic victims, must be clarified. The legislature has to do that. The Federal Ministry of Transport has only had a round table on the subject of autonomous driving since 2014, and we are also sitting at it.

So the question is: Who is actually liable? The driver of the autonomous car or the manufacturer?

Rhinelander : In general: Motor vehicle liability insurance is and remains the first point of contact for victims of cars. This also applies to autonomous vehicles. Legal issues may not be carried out on the back of the traffic victim. In principle, product liability would apply to an autonomous vehicle, but it is not made for it.

What are your interests as an insurance company?Would you like the system or the driver to steer the car?

Müller : We are there to protect victims. Who drives is not our topic. We are committed to ensuring that the principles of liability law are clearly clarified so that victim protection does not fall by the wayside. The round table has to deliver results here.

Where does one start to ensure victim protection?

Rhinelander : The mechanisms of the insurance must remain as simple as before, even with autonomous driving. As the injured party, I must always be able to assert and enforce my claim directly against the motor vehicle liability insurance. However, the technical processing is now difficult.

What do you mean by technical processing?

Müller : For example access to the data available in the vehicle. We know that some models are already recording data. At the moment only the vehicle manufacturer has access to this data. The owner of the car should of course also be able to read the data.

But the black box is very controversial in public because nobody knows what will happen to the data. How can you solve the problem?

Müller : For us, the customer should have the freedom to choose what happens with his data. However, this assumes that the systems are so open that the consumer can really choose who to entrust his data to.

When can we expect an amendment on the topic of autonomous driving in Germany?

Müller : The development group has been in existence for over a year, but we are not yet so far advanced that the topic is ready for novelty.

Rhinelander : I still suspect that convergence will be faster than with the usual legislative procedures. With autonomous driving coming in the foreseeable future, there is a need to act quickly.

Will the findings of the round table serve as a template for the EU?

Rhinelander : That would be possible. So far, the legal problems with autonomous driving have not really reached the EU level. At the moment we are only talking at the national level. Due to the presence of manufacturers, Germany is predestined to develop a concept that could be used at EU level.

In addition to autonomous driving, the topic of electric cars is also becoming increasingly important. Do you haveplan to offer special tariffs for e-cars?

Rhinelander : There is no special tariff yet, plus the number of vehicles too low. However, we are already taking an approach to this issue. If a car has low CO2 emissions, we reward that in the tariff. We see that this is justified. Because customers who buy a particularly ecological vehicle also drive more cautiously.

Keyword car sharing - how does this affect your insurance world?

Müller : We are watching this development. But so far there is no need for us to react, as we are not yet seeing any dramatic drops in vehicle registrations. In our perception, car sharing is currently more of a substitute for taxi rides or public transport than owning a car.

Rhinelander : The market is on insured vehicles are currently not affected by car sharing to the extent that we are concerned.

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