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Motoring along: the many routes towards automation

The race to develop and deploy fully automated vehicles shows no sign of slowing, and one insurer is determined to stay ahead of the pack.

XL Catlin’s London-based automation chief Richard Jinks was in Australia last week, and gave insuranceNEWS.com.au some key insights into the technology’s development.

Last month the company announced its involvement in the Driven consortium – part of a partnership with Oxford-based artificial intelligence company Oxbotica.

Driven will see a fleet of connected, fully autonomous cars travel through urban areas and on motorways, culminating in a journey between Oxford and London.

But Mr Jinks believes that while much of the focus is understandably on cars, autonomous technology will be deployed in other environments long before it reaches the high street.

“When we talk about autonomous vehicles, we don’t just mean cars, we mean anything that moves on the ground,” he told insuranceNEWS.com.au.

“Oxbotica’s tech is agnostic with regards to what it can be applied to. It could be forklift trucks in a warehousing logistics environment, or it could be mining equipment.

“Early adopters of the tech will be things like this because they are in private, fixed, safe environments where you haven’t got members of the public or cyclists or other motorists.

“You are in a much more well-defined, structured environment.

“What you will see is the adoption of the tech in those kinds of areas and industries before you see it on the roads.

“The first adoption on the road could be in public transport systems in defined areas of a city, and then eventually you’ll go to a car showroom and decide if you want an autonomous car or that you like driving so much you’ll stick with the steering wheel. I don’t know how long that will be. Some car companies have committed to 2021, but we’ll see.”

Head of Portfolio Solutions Mr Jinks says XL Catlin wants to be involved in the technology from the start, so it can be ready to supply solutions for new risks.

He says cyber risk will be crucial, and there will be increased focus on errors and omissions, software and technology, and product liability.

“The risks will change, and the reason we are in the project is to learn exactly what those will be,” he says. “Some of the brightest minds in the world are working on this tech… and cyber security is in every aspect of what they are doing.

“The reality is a risk, the perception is a risk and it is high on the agenda. Part of the insurance solution will be about how we insure that risk.”

XL Catlin is not a private motor insurer, but believes automation is nevertheless hugely relevant to its client base. That’s a statement that applies across the global insurance industry.

“If you think about nuclear installation, mining, construction, all of these industries will at some point adopt some form of autonomous robotics,” he says.

“I am sure the vast majority of our clients today, within their businesses there is somebody thinking about how they can use and adopt this tech.

“I don’t see that being any different in Australia than any other part of the world.”

Mr Jinks believes XL Catlin’s work in this area sums up what the company is about: being relevant to clients now and in future.

“If you think about what insurance is, it really is an enabler of businesses and technologies,” he says.

“The technology is coming, it is going to happen, and we as an industry have an obligation to help resolve the issues and not put a brake on innovation.

“As an industry we have to be relevant. We have absolutely been relevant in the past but we have to be in the future and we can only do that by understanding the risks of the future and coming up with solutions for them.

“I’m sure the industry will do that and we at XL Catlin want to lead the way.”

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