Direct Line is offering Tesla drivers who use Autopilot on their car a 5% discount on insurance premiums in a bid to increase the function's usage for research.
The British insurer told Reuters that it wanted more people to use the technology so that it could gather valuable data, which will be used to better understand how autonomous technology will impact safety on the road and therefore the price of premiums.
“At present, the driver is firmly in charge [when using Autopilot], so it’s just like insuring other cars, but it does offer Direct Line a great opportunity to learn and prepare for the future,” Dan Freedman, the insurer's head of motor development, told Reuters. “We aim to offer competitive premiums and we’ve welcomed a good number of Tesla drivers in the UK”.
Autopilot technology can take control of the car’s acceleration, braking and steering, but current laws require the driver to remain in command. Cars can also be summoned from parking spaces to their drivers. Research has shown that Tesla drivers who regularly use the Autopilot system are around 40% less likely to have an accident.
Tesla equips all of its cars with driverless technology hardware to enable autonomous functions. This hardware is capable of offering full autonomy, but software is yet to reach levels to enable it. Over-the-air software updates will be used to move each car towards the maximum autonomy level as technology progresses.
Britain is pushing to become a world leader in autonomous car technology, with the recent Autumn Budget including plans to invest in companies specialising in the area. Draft legislation is being written up to allow autonomous cars to drive on Britain’s roads from 2021, so insurers are eager to establish how the technology will affect the number of incidents their customers have.
The Association of British Insurers (ABI) and vehicle safety expert Thatcham Research have been pushing for insurers to be allowed access to car data systems after an accident to determine whether the car was in autonomous mode at the time. They argue that the information will be vital to reveal whether the car or the driver was at fault.