Insurers have a long way to go to earn public trust over approach to driverless cars, Kennedys survey reveals

Consumers are suspicious of what will happen to insurance premiums once driverless cars hit UK roads and fear that insurers will misuse the data they receive from vehicles, according to a survey that we have commissioned.

With the Queen’s Speech last week highlighting the government’s determination to put the UK at the forefront of developing autonomous vehicle technology, we feel the results highlight the need for a significant public consultation and education campaign.

Insurers will need to play a prominent role in the debate to reassure the public that the technology will not be used against motorists.

The survey of 1,000 people, conducted by Cicero Research, is the first major piece of research into public attitudes on autonomous technology.

It found that overall, only 44% of UK adults support the use of driverless cars. Road safety concerns are the main reason among non-supporters. 61% did not trust computers enough and felt humans have better judgement to control vehicles in a safe manner, despite driver error currently being the main cause of road traffic accidents in the UK.

But some 37% of people said the prospect of insurers increasing premiums in the short-term was another significant factor as to why people do not accept driverless technology.

However, the survey showed a level of disconnect. Despite the concerns about safety, 54% of people believed driverless cars would result in fewer accidents, and 63% felt that the technology would help to reduce the number of road rage incidents.

Respondents could also see the benefits, with the car parking itself, elderly and disabled people maintaining their independence, and making rural communities less reliant on public transport seen as positives that could come out of the technology.

Lower insurance premiums over time was another benefit: 40% of people believed it would be “significant” benefit. The options were put to them as a list of 13 potential benefits, in which lower insurance ranked ninth. The car being able to park itself was at the top of the list.

The survey also highlighted the concerns that people have over the capability of driverless cars to collect, store and transmit large amounts of personal data.

The possibility of computer hackers taking control of cars made around two-thirds of people “extremely concerned”, while 49% were similarly worried that insurance companies would use the data to increase premiums. A further 25% were “somewhat concerned” by this.

The survey also suggested the major impact on insurance of changing car-use habits. Though still some distance in the future, already 13% of respondents envisaged that would mean taking out insurance on demand, rather than an annual policy.

This research demonstrates how autonomous vehicle technology could affect real social transformation in extending social inclusion and independence to Britain’s elderly, disabled and rural communities.


Deborah Newberry, Head of Corporate and Public Affairs at Kennedys

Deborah added: “But the government cannot ignore the high levels of public concern. As we have seen with previous innovations – such as genetically modified foods - the failure to first explain the benefits of the technology and secure public support, can have a profound impact on its long-term adoption. The debate around driverless cars should aim from the outset to be based on a rational understanding of both the costs and benefits.

“Insurers have a vital role to play as well, to include reassuring customers that their data will be used in an open and transparent way. There is a lot for insurers to talk about, such as the long-term impact on premiums for both autonomous and conventional vehicles and the change in insurance needs where premiums are intrinsically linked to vehicle safety.”

We have laid out a ‘Blueprint for Successful Implementation’, which we believe the government, motor manufacturers and insurers need to take into account to ensure the successful integration of driverless cars into society. For insurers, this includes:

  • Becoming fully involved in efforts to develop the new technology to help them better understand the changing profile of risk when insuring the new vehicles and the impact on premium levels and pricing models;
  • Commissioning their own end-user research to fully understand the likely changing patterns of car ownership and its consequential impact on consumer demand for distinct types of insurance cover;
  • Product development teams creating new types of policies to reflect the changes in customer behaviours. This might also result in motorists buying motor insurance in different ways, for example, insurance could become more of an ancillary sale aligned with the sale of new cars. Insurers need to anticipate the changing relationship between themselves and motor manufacturers; and
  • Educating existing customers about the new types of technology coming onto the market and how that is likely to impact on vehicle safety and insurance premiums.