(Bloomberg) -- Auto insurers, faced with rising accident rates and the emergence of autonomous vehicles that could make them obsolete by removing human error, have reason to love and hate driverless technology. Munich Re, the world’s biggest reinsurer, has decided to embrace it.
The company -- which helps primary insurers shoulder risks in return for a share of the premiums -- will sell Mobileye’s driver-assistance tech as an aftermarket add-on to commercial fleets starting this month. It’s targeting a market of about 500,000 vehicles, from garbage trucks to ride-share cars, with a bid to curb collisions and collect valuable data in preparation for the rise of self-driving autos.
“What we’re looking to do here is work with our clients to help them understand the key loss drivers within their auto portfolio, and help identify which types of losses are preventable and not preventable,” said Mike Scrudato, Munich Re’s U.S. strategic innovation leader. “If there are less crashes and ultimately insurance premiums go down, it’s up to the insurance industry to evolve and find opportunities in that.”
Auto insurers are starting to grapple with the advent of autonomous vehicles that could cost them as much as $25 billion in lost premiums in the U.S. by 2035, according to an analysis released in May by Accenture Plc and Stevens Institute of Technology. At the same time, U.S. auto insurers and their investors have been burned for years by worse-than-expected claims costs, forcing them to raise rates as higher speed limits, congested roads and distracted driving trigger increases in both the frequency and severity of accidents.
As many as 40,000 people were killed on roads in the U.S. last year, capping the largest two-year percentage increase in roadway deaths in 53 years, according to the National Safety Council.
As part of their partnership, which includes a pilot test program earlier this year, Munich Re will subsidize some of the cost of Mobileye’s aftermarket chip and camera sets, which alert drivers to pedestrians and unintended lane departures, for insurance customers and commercial fleets. The systems retail for about $850 apiece, according to Moran David, director of business development for Intel Corp.’s Mobileye in New York.
Once enough units have been sold, the two companies will present fleet data on accident reduction to state insurance regulators, who must sign off for Munich Re to bundle the tech into a newly designed insurance product it’s hoping to launch.
The deal with Munich Re is Mobileye’s first with an insurer in the U.S., David said. Mobileye has started similar pilots with other insurance companies, he said.