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Will driverless car technology mean a red light to fraudulent motor claims?

Lucy Bevan, a Solicitor in DWF's fraud team, discusses the potential impact of the introduction of driverless cars upon motor fraud claims. 

Introduction of driverless cars

Since the launch of Google’s driverless car in 2010 the interest in driverless car technology has been rapidly increasing. Driverless cars are in their experimental stage in the UK and the first vehicles are to be tested in some towns and cities as early as January 2015. It is likely that it will only be a matter of time before we see driverless cars on all our roads and the prediction is that they will become an increasingly regular sight over the next 10 years.

The vehicles operate by utilising existing driver aids, such as lane correction systems, cruise control, GPS, telematics and anti-avoidance systems and then by tying these systems together and mapping the surrounding area using sensors and cameras to create a detailed 3D image.

Effect on low speed whiplash claims

The motor insurance industry has undergone a dramatic change in the way it captures and records data since the introduction of GPS and telematics technology and whilst the latter is primarily a tool to set and manage insurance premiums it also records valuable information which can assist in investigating claims and combatting fraud.

In theory, passengers travelling in vehicles fitted with driverless car technology will be safer through the anti-collision measures that enable driverless cars to brake or steer to avoid a collision. A report from Thatcham Research “Stop the Crash: Autonomous Emergency Braking - the Next Seat Belt?” suggests that three quarters of all road traffic collisions occur at speeds of less than 20mph and that autonomous emergency braking systems typically prevent crashes at speeds up to 12 – 15mph and mitigate those up to 25 mph.

Low speed impacts represent a significant concern for the insurance industry due to the high percentage of whiplash claims they generate. Whilst automation reduces the impact of human driver error, (which in turn, at least according to Thatcham will reduce the number of low speed impacts), this technology is unlikely to eradicate the low speed impact altogether. Neither is the pilot of a driverless car likely to be provided with a complete defence in such collisions.

Through the proliferation of telematics, we would though expect there to be a reduction in the number of contested LVI claims, where closing vehicle speeds are often crucial and often contested. Surely the “black box” will provide definitive data in this regard and render arguments about speed redundant.

Effect on other types of fraud

The potential benefits of driverless technology are more obvious for lower speed impacts but will the technology deter and help eradicate induced or staged claims?  Possibly not.

The introduction of driverless car technology is likely to lead to a reduction in the number of collisions and with it a reduction in the chances for the opportunistic fraudster to strike. It is unlikely however, to deter sophisticated fraudsters who are likely to try and adapt their methods and modus operandi. 

The organised fraudster will undoubtedly look to develop new ways of committing insurance fraud. They are also likely to deploy technologies of their own. We are already seeing the use of “signal-jammers” and other computerised components to thwart the transmission of telematics data, and it is likely that more technology will enter the market that interferes with driverless car technology.

Using existing technologies to defeat fraud

Whilst the UK wide introduction of driverless vehicles is still some way off, the use of telematics and GPS technology has been steadily growing over the past few years. 

The DWF fraud team have vast experience of utilising GPS and telematics data to assist in the defence of fraudulent claims.

Solicitor Lucy Bevan, has recently successfully deployed telematics data to assist in defeating three separate claims:

  • a suspected staged collision where the GPS data placed the insured vehicle some 1.6 miles away from the alleged accident scene.

  • a suspected staged collision where the telematics data confirmed that there had been a collision, but where the GPS data contradicted the version that the driver gave about his journey leading up to the incident. 

  • a suspected staged collision where the insured driver denied any knowledge of the third party and denied ever having visited the area in which the third party lived, yet the GPS data placed the insured vehicle at the third party address on three occasions prior to the alleged incident. 

Summary

Whilst the introduction of driverless cars is likely to have a positive impact on the fight on fraud, our view is that fraud will not disappear and that the organised fraudster will look to adapt. It is important in our view that technology does not lead the industry to conclude that it can afford to be less vigilant.

We will continue to monitor developments with interest and will continue to keep you updated.

Contact

For further information please contact Lucy Bevan, Solicitor, on 0161 603 5115 or at lucy.bevan@dwf.co.uk.

By Lucy Bevan

This information is intended as a general discussion surrounding the topics covered and is for guidance purposes only. It does not constitute legal advice and should not be regarded as a substitute for taking legal advice. DWF is not responsible for any activity undertaken based on this information.

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