Munich Reinsurance America announced Wednesday that it is teaming up with Comet, a developer of ground mobile robotics pilot projects, to conduct a feasibility study focused on autonomous vehicle (AV) data and market development opportunities.

The study will examine new questions about risk and liability that autonomous vehicles pose while they promise to make driving safer.

“Comet works with corporations, government and end users to educate them about the advantages of vehicle automation through real work demonstrations and pilots,” said Comet President Corey Clothier, in a statement. “Our engagement with Munich Re involves ‘kicking the tires’ to see how AV technology is applicable in the real world.”

Tony Kuczinski, President and CEO of Munich Re America, said, “We believe that AV technology offers tremendous potential to save lives, reduce accidents, provide fuel economies, and improve road efficiencies. However, there is still much to learn before society can fully harness the benefits of this technology,” explaining why the reinsurer is working with Comet and other public and private entities to develop business solutions for this emerging risk.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), vehicles with automated safety controls are already on the road, incorporating such features as adaptive cruise control used in combination with lane keeping. The NHTSA expects the number of AVs on the road to continue to increase, first as additions to existing vehicles and then as fully integrated systems.

Potential questions around AV risk and liability include whether personal liability might shift from the driver, to product liability on the part of the vehicle manufacturer or systems provider because of mechanical or software failure.

Mike Scrudato, Senior Vice President, Strategic Innovation Leader at Munich Re America, Inc., said, “In the transition to fully autonomous vehicles, there will be a variety of AV types on the road, which will add complexity in laws and law enforcement, liability and underwriting. Other risks include cyber security to protect the communications systems within and between vehicles.”

Source: Munich Re America