Volvo seminar sparks debate about self-driving cars
12:30 AM | May 23 2016

Volvo seminar sparks debate about self-driving cars

A seminar hosted by Volvo Cars to discuss the effect of self-driving cars on the insurance industry created a lively media debate about the benefits of autonomous driving technology.

The event took place in London and was held in conjunction with Thatcham, the UK motor insurers’ research organisation. Keynote speakers were Håkan Samuelsson, Volvo Car Group President and CEO, Peter Shaw, Chief Executive of Thatcham Research, and James Dalton, Director of General Insurance Policy at the Association of British Insurers (ABI).

News organisations including The Guardian, Evening Standard, The Telegraph and The Times sent reporters, as did motoring titles such as What Car? and Autocar. Almost every report picked up on Volvo CEO Håkan Samuelsson’s key message: that by 2035 autonomous driving will reduce accidents by an estimated 80 per cent and that, as a consequence, insurance premiums will go down significantly.

Media outlets such as Digital Trends focused on the keynote speech given by Peter Shaw, chief executive at Thatcham research. According to Shaw, autonomous driving will have an effect similar to that of Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB): crash frequency will dramatically reduce, and even if a collision does occur, it will be far less severe.

Autocar reported that the seminar highlighted how important the driver will remain in an autonomous car. In an article entitled "UK insurance industry boss casts doubts over autonomous vehicles" it quotes James Dalton as saying: "I don't like the term driverless car because I don't think it exists. At least in the long term a car is going to need a fit, alert and sober driver."

The Guardian's report suggested autonomous driving could become a desirable luxury car attribute, and quoted Håkan Samuelsson as saying that about one in four premium car buyers would buy a self-driving vehicle. The report also drew attention to the "substantial benefits to society" promised by autonomous driving: saved lives, reduced congestion, and a better driving experience.

In its report, the International Business Times highlighted how disruptive autonomous driving will be to various industries. It quotes James Dalton as saying: “Automated driving will send shockwaves through many industries. Motor manufacturers are facing threats to their own business models from technology giants such as Google and Apple and need to move fast to keep up.”

The report suggested that the insurance industry is “welcoming the new technology” and again quotes James Dalton: "There will always be a need for insurance and our industry is used to adapting as new risks emerge and others fade. The potential prize here is a massive reduction in road accidents, leading to fewer people killed and injured on our roads. Insurers would love to see that become a reality."