Insurance Blog | Accenture

Self-driving cars are just one example of technology outpacing regulation. Ryan Stein, from Insurance Bureau of Canada, explains why insurers should be more proactive with new technology.


  • An Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC) survey found that most people perceive self-driving cars to be safer than conventional cars.
  • Insurers should play an active role to engage governments and regulators as new technologies, like self-driving cars, become more prevalent.
  • As regulators, insurers and governments look to update laws to accommodate new technologies and trends, their guiding principle should be to make sure injured parties have access to quick and fair compensation.

Self-driving cars and what happens when regulation lags technology, with Ryan Stein

Welcome back to the Accenture Insurance Influencers podcast, where we ask some of the industry’s foremost thinkers what the future of insurance looks like. How might artificial intelligence (AI), innovation and anti-fraud technology change the industry? Our first guest is Ryan Stein, the executive director of auto insurance policy and innovation at Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC).

So far in this series, Ryan has talked about how self-driving cars pose a challenge to today’s auto insurance regulations, and why IBC recommends a single insurance policy to cover both conventional and automated vehicles. In this episode, we look at the adoption of automated vehicles and general principles as insurers, governments and regulators try to keep pace with emerging technologies.

The following transcript has been edited for length and clarity.

If you look at the research, automated vehicles are much safer than human drivers. At the same time, a lot of people are uncomfortable with the idea of robots behind the wheel. So what does adoption of automated vehicles look like in the future?

An IBC survey looked at the overall population and most people said they weren’t interested in driving an automated vehicle. But if you looked at people aged 18 to 34, most of them were. And overall most people perceive these vehicles to be safer.

So while you do hear of people being hesitant to use this technology, I think the potential for automated vehicles is huge. They will eventually become the majority of new vehicle sales––I don’t know how many tens of years that will take, but no doubt automated vehicles are coming and they’re going to be on our on our roads. That’s why it’s so important to make sure that the auto insurance laws are updated, so that insurance companies can offer the type of coverage that’s appropriate for these vehicles.

And we think that the single insurance policy—that will provide coverage regardless of whether the human or the technology caused the collision—is the way to go. And that it’s the most appropriate way of achieving what we think is an important goal, which is making sure that people who are injured get access to fair and quick compensation.

I imagine that’s particularly challenging in North America where’s a patchwork of provincial or state laws governing auto insurance to begin with, and automated vehicles in particular. To what extent is a national strategy important as far as legislation and regulation in this area?

If you can get all the provinces to update their insurance laws at the same time, that would be fantastic. That would mean all Canadians, when they use or buy automated vehicles, will be able to get appropriate insurance.

While it would be great if this could all happen at once, that’s just not how insurance tends to work. It’s usually one province makes a change, sort of like what happened with the sharing economy. Ontario and Alberta did it first, updating their laws to accommodate ride sharing. And for automated vehicles it could be the same thing. If a couple of provinces are ready to update their laws to reflect vehicle automation then they should move. And then when the others are ready, they can do the same.

To what extent should insurers be playing a more proactive role? Should they be guiding this public policy and informing the regulation and having a seat at that table as these laws are made?

The insurance industry has been quite proactive. It was IBC’s member companies that said, “We’ve got to look at this issue.” And that led to developing the single-policy idea and the different features that supported it, the data-sharing arrangement and all that, which led to the paper that we released last year.

The industry has presented on the ideas in this paper to government regulator audiences across the country, and has made it clear to the various governments that we want to work with them on this. And the response from the provinces we’ve met with has been quite positive.

That’s great. IBC is focused on the Canadian market, but Canada isn’t the only country to be grappling with the issue of automated vehicles. So what general principles should regulators, insurers and governments keep in mind as they do look to update laws to accommodate automated vehicles?

I think the number one thing—and it’s the one that we really focused on is—is that it’s important to make sure that people who are injured have access to quick and fair compensation. That’s why auto insurance is regulated.

When we were working with our members and looking at how automated vehicles would work in the existing auto insurance legislation and regulation, we saw a risk of people not being able to get fair and quick compensation––of people being stuck in costly and protracted product liability litigation.

Once we identified it’s important that people have access to fair and quick compensation, we asked, how do we update the insurance laws to make that happen? We looked at models that would work in a situation where conventional vehicles and automated vehicles will be sharing the road, because you need the insurance solution to work for both.

And that’s what the single insurance policy allows. It makes sure that people have access to fair and quick compensation, and it can coexist with the existing auto insurance policies for conventional vehicles.

Automated vehicles and autonomous vehicles are an example of a technology where development is outpacing the regulatory environment. What can insurers do in these cases to make sure that they are on top of things, while also not investing in something that might just be hype and not reality?

From a public policy perspective, it’s about engaging the government, engaging regulators and talking about these issues. Talking about the importance of studying the insurance laws and regulations and making sure that they’re appropriate. At IBC, we’re trying to make that happen, but companies can do that individually too.

We’ve spent a lot of time talking about the single insurance policy and the data-sharing piece. But what’s important is that it’s less about those two solutions and more about governments and regulators looking at this issue, and examining the insurance laws to make sure that they’re appropriate in a world where vehicles are automated.

We think that the solution that we’ve put on the table is a really good one. But before even getting there we want to be having these discussions in detail with the governments looking at the insurance laws, and if a better solution comes out of it, we’re all ears on that. But really we want to be having that discussion where we have the insurance industry, the provincial governments, and the regulators looking at the insurance laws, and making sure they’re appropriate in an automated vehicle world.

Great. And probably a good policy to be having as we look at other innovations that that are coming into our society as well. And people can download your paper off the website, is that correct?

They can. It’s available on our website.

Perfect. And thank you very much for making the time to speak to us. This was a really interesting conversation.

It was my pleasure.


In this episode of the Accenture Insurance Influencers podcast, we talked about:

  • IBC survey findings that in general, people perceive self-driving cars as safer than conventional cars.
  • Why it’s important for insurers to proactively engage governments and regulators on issues like self-driving cars, to ensure that insurance policy is equipped to deal with real-life risk.
  • Guiding principles for updating laws for new technologies and trends—namely, that injured parties must have access to fair and quick compensation.

For more guidance on self-driving cars:

That wraps up our interviews with Ryan Stein. If you enjoyed this series, check out our next guest. Lex Sokolin is a futurist and fintech entrepreneur, and he spoke with us about how technology and digital are upending the status quo in financial services. We also talked about artificial intelligence (AI)—how it’s different from automation, how it can transform the insurance value chain and why AI bias is so insidious.

What to do next:

Contact us if you’d like to be a guest on the Insurance Influencers podcast.

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *