Insuring the future of motoring with FiveAI

At Direct Line Group, we understand that Autonomous Vehicles (AVs) are not just in the future of the automotive industry – they are the future of the automotive industry. 

AVs offer a host of advantages, both environmental and safety related, that are compelling enough to make their introduction to our roads an inevitability. The UK government has promised to have autonomous cars on the roads by 2021 and rapid advances in technology as well as numerous pilot schemes are already underway in order to make this goal a reality.

We believe that our role as insurers is not to sit back and wait for AVs to hit our roads before establishing what is needed from us. We know that if we are to help facilitate their introduction and deliver the many benefits they promise, we need to be involved now. We are at the start of a technology revolution in motoring and, with some major hurdles ahead, insurers can be either a blockage to these changes, or an accelerant.

At Direct Line Group, we want to be an accelerant, and one of the ways we are working to achieve this is by becoming the insurer for a major AV consortium called StreetWise. 

The StreetWise project is part-funded by the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund and is delivered via Innovate UK, along with other investments coming directly from the industry. Through StreetWise FiveAI, the consortium lead, is partnering with Direct Line Group and TRL, the global centre for innovation in transport and mobility, along with other partners. The aim is to develop and demonstrate the technology, safety validation methods, insurance and service models for delivering an automated, shared personal mobility solution that offers an alternative to the urban commuter car.

This stage of the StreetWise project sees passenger research trials with FiveAI test vehicles driving employees from Direct Line Group’s Bromley office on a return loop. Rigorous safety practices govern all of FiveAI’s on road testing, where highly trained safety drivers sit behind the wheel at all times.

This is an important stage in the process of the development of AVs. For no matter how sophisticated the technology, it simply won’t work if it can’t meet passenger needs, navigate potholes, roundabouts and zebra crossings; and some experts have expressed concerns that some of the technology being developed is optimised for a US market where the roads are very different. Trials such as these being undertaken by FiveAI should help the UK catch up.

Stan Boland, co-founder and CEO of FiveAI, said: “Shared, self-driving vehicle services promise a better way for Londoners to get around, but it will take a network of forward-thinking partners to make these services a reality in European urban environments. The lessons learned through StreetWise provide an important step towards that goal.”

David Hynd, Chief Scientist at TRL said: “This is a significant milestone not only for the StreetWise consortium but for the entire CAV sector in the UK and beyond. Automated vehicles represent the future of transport and have the potential to deliver tangible, wide-reaching benefits in relation to reduced congestion, faster and cheaper commutes, fewer collisions and cleaner air. We’re very excited about entering this phase of the project to create credible and real-world insights on the willingness to use and attitudes toward a shared automated passenger service, which will go a long way to helping us understand how these services can meet the needs of end-users.”

As technological advances continue at pace and self-driving cars become a reality, insurers need to understand how that changes risk; cars will increasingly be controlled by software rather than humans. Working closely with our StreetWise partners, including FiveAI and TRL, provides DLG with unique insight that will help to develop innovative insurance solutions for new tech enabled mobility services

Neil Ingram, Head of Motor Product at Direct Line Group said:

This particular trial will be designed to show that the technology is now sufficiently mature to be safe in urban environments and sufficiently intelligent to co-exist with human drivers, other road users and pedestrians. It will also demonstrate how technology can be used to build a compelling service which helps to recover commuting time, reduce commuting costs, cut accident rates, reduce congestion and lower emissions.

This is an incredibly exciting time in the development of AVs. According to the World Health Organisation, more than 1.25 million people die each year as a result of road traffic crashes. Clearly, something needs to be done to help reduce the potential for human error, and at Direct Line Group, we are proud to be playing our part in the process of bringing a safer, more environmentally friendly fleet of vehicles to our roads.

To find out more about what Direct Line Group are doing in the space click here