Electric thrusters, autonomous driving, connectivity, car sharing or SUV are just some keys to what the future holds for the automotive industry. However, it is not only the manufacturers who are affected by this technological revolution. Those responsible for designing and creating the road infrastructure of tomorrow or the insurance companies also study in time this new juncture to which, whether we are in favor or not, we are all driven by the inertia of a highly competitive, highly changing and economically colossal sector .
Although there are brands convinced that thermal engines will never die or that their vehicles will always offer the possibility of manual control, the progression of the automobile market and the current flood of news related to their evolution in terms of energy and automation show that, if Well still in the making, the concept of car that we have today will change drastically in the years to come. Fortunately or unfortunately, in all likelihood it will become a transport service instead of a machine under our control, although you still have to calculate your car insurance, active or passive through the company that handles the service.
Before the scenario that is about to arrive, the insurers already consider how to monetize their benefits in a context with less siniestralidad, because the human error will tend to be reduced. But evidently not everything passes through his hands. Also the legal framework will mutate to a level where the responsibility is mostly of the machine and, therefore, of the company that produced it. That at least is the bet of brands such as Audi or Volvo, which already work with governments and other authorities in different parts of the world to define aspects of this new legality, initially established by each country, although there may be – and there are avenues open in this sense- a supranational coordination.
Other large groups have also expressed themselves in this sense, in a less forceful way. Sébastien Lefranc, responsible for the autonomous vehicle concept of the PSA group said this a couple of years ago: «The autonomous vehicle will lead to an evolution of the division of responsibilities among drivers, manufacturers and infrastructure managers». These are words that came after a Citroën Grand C4 Picasso successfully traveled the distance between the cities of Vigo and Madrid autonomously in November 2015.
Today, cases in which an autonomous car has been involved in a traffic accident are reduced to a few exceptions, but it may become usual in a few years, especially by the interaction between autonomous cars with others that do not they are or they do it to a lesser degree. For this reason, the responsibility in case of loss will not fall solely on the brand but will be attributed to multiple and complex variables such as a hypothetical failure in the software -eye to the ‘hackers’-, which in turn develops another company other than the automobile.
In addition, these systems will require a more thorough maintenance of the roads, because for the car to ‘think’ on its own it will have to rely on perfectly preserved road signs. In the event that an autonomous vehicle had an accident on a road with inconspicuous lines, it is assessed in future regulations that the body in charge of preserving the good condition of the road in question should be held responsible. For this, it will also be important to have a kind of ‘black box’ that records information about what happened.
Currently, the industry divides the systems with automatic pilot in five levels:
- Level 1 involves the fusion of traditional driving with those at the most basic speed and direction that can be installed in a modern tourism, among which are no longer contemplated the stability control -ESP- or the anti-lock braking system- ABS-. We speak, for example, of adaptive cruise control or lane change warning.
- Level 2 already implies that the car can move by itself in very specific situations such as traffic jams or wide roads, with well-defined lanes.
- From level 3, which is the phase in which today are the most advanced models of the Premium and Prestige market, extends the virtues of level 2 to a greater number of circumstances and types of road, so that the computer of the vehicle it is capable of analyzing and foresee dangers acting accordingly, although the human driver must remain attentive to the conditions of the road. This is the case of the new Audi A8.
- Only levels 4 and 5 are considered completely autonomous and independent, differentiating them from the fact that the car in question equips steering wheel and pedals or not.
The imminent tessitura of artificial intelligence, which is already on everyone’s lips, will necessarily be linked to an integral connectivity that will imply the virtual relationship of the car with its peers and even with the infrastructures through which they circulate jointly. The sum of these factors makes almost indisputable the fact that traveling on the asphalt will be safer and more reliable even for the most hesitant. At the time of traveling long distances, already before 2025 there will be cars so comfortable and entertaining for long routes as the Business class of a ship, plane or train.
In this sense, there are visionaries of the sector who dare to think about the possibility of cars flying in a couple of decades safely and legally. The most representative project around this idea could be Terrafugia, a start-up created in 2006 by five MIT engineers that was acquired last July by Geely, the Chinese giant and owner of Volvo that aspires to become the manufacturer of referring cars of Asia. They already have a prototype in the testing phase, the Transition.
However and apart from the air cars, the new paradigm does not lie solely and exclusively in the driver’s facilities. Ecology plays a fundamental role in this stage and entails a series of additional advantages beyond mere environmental care. Although there are patents for engines moved from a hydrogen battery, hybridizations based on liquefied petroleum gas or vehicular natural gas and even magnetic propellants, it seems that the future of the automotive industry is sealed by the most cutting-edge electric power and batteries for accumulate it.
Exceptions apart, the vast majority of 100% electric cars equip their batteries on the floor of their platform in order to gain space for the accumulators while optimizing their center of gravity which, among other things, will make them more stable. Thus, the engine compartment, which would be occupied by a heavy and dense machine in conventional tourism, is now free to transport extra luggage as well as to better absorb the impacts, so also in the aspect of passive safety, it is expect the cars of the future to be superior.
To this must be added necessarily a very clear alteration in the demand for vehicle type or segment of the market in terms of size and dimensions, since the SUV, in practically all its classes, grow rapidly and become increasingly attractive to the customer , especially since the greater ground clearance, the functionality and the elevated driving position are less at odds with the sporty design thanks to the incorporation of the CUV, coupe-style SUVs.
The insurance companies will also not be able to fit into the current ownership model and limit themselves to technical progress. Especially during the last two years, it can be observed how the standard of mobility by which every user has his own vehicle evolves towards a less private conception of the automobile and that passes through the rental services by minutes -‘car sharing’- or the pressing ‘payment for use’ that some firms such as Polestar have already established in their purchasing processes. This will require reviewing their pricing policies and the mode of monetization of their services.
In view of the looming scenario, insurance comparators will play a key role in this new environment, as companies that are dedicated to endorse and protect vehicles in the face of any adversity they may suffer, must contemplate, in any case, the latest technological applications to calculate your car insurance. In other words, faced with such a fickle and unknown horizon, the most renowned mutual and insurers face the famous dichotomy of adapting or dying, but we trust in the first option.