Autonomous Vehicle

University of Salford joins Aviva & Darwin self-driving shuttle insurance program

Aviva, a insurance company, offers a wide range of financial products, including coverage for cars, homes, & life and Darwin Innovation Group, a company that develops self-driving vehicles, announced their partnership in late 2021 to introduce the Darwin Autonomous Shuttle, marking the UK’s lengthiest running self-driving passenger service. After two years of operation, this collaboration is now expanding with the University of Salford joining forces to introduce a second self-driving shuttle to the service.

About Darwin Autonomous Shuttle: ( ~ Gemini Google)

The Darwin Autonomous Shuttle is a self-driving passenger service currently operating in the UK. It navigates using sensors and cameras, making its own decisions on the road. For safety, a supervisor is on board to monitor operations, but the shuttle can stop automatically if it detects obstacles. This project is helping researchers gather data on autonomous vehicles to develop future insurance policies specifically designed for them.

The new shuttle, like the original Darwin Autonomous Shuttle, has no driver and no steering wheel. Instead, it uses cameras, LiDAR sensors, 3D maps, and self-driving software to navigate a route, stop for passengers, and detect obstacles. The use of a second shuttle enables a greater understanding of how self-driving vehicles interact with each other in a real-world setting.

Both shuttles carry passengers around Harwell Science and Innovation Campus in Oxfordshire. This is an ongoing project supported by the European Space Agency and UK Space Agency. The University of Salford hopes to learn more about autonomous vehicle operation through its collaboration with Darwin. Ultimately, they aim to deploy self-driving vehicles in the Manchester area.

Aviva is insuring both shuttles. Since the launch of the Darwin Autonomous Shuttle in 2021, Darwin has shared data from the service. This sharing enables Aviva to gain a greater understanding of how connected and autonomous vehicles (CAVs) should be insured. The introduction of a second shuttle will enrich the data. This will further inform Aviva’s development of insurance products for autonomous vehicles.

Daniela Petrovic, the co-founder of Darwin, explained how introducing a second vehicle to the Darwin Autonomous Shuttle route also enables swifter advances in the CAV software used by both shuttles: “We are testing both vehicles all the time, and improvements in one are immediately deployed in the other.”

One of the aspects Darwin is testing is the ability of these autonomous vehicles to make journeys on demand. Moreover, this feature lets passengers call the shuttle to pick them up from a specific stop on the vehicle’s route. In the future, companies might deploy on-demand passenger CAVs more widely, thus diminishing reliance on individual cars in rural areas.

Tom Pitney, Head of Motor at Aviva, said: “The addition of a second shuttle to the autonomous vehicle trial marks an important milestone in our five-year partnership. This trial will give us access to a wealth of rich data. It will provide valuable insights into claims, underwriting, risk, and product areas. Moreover, this will enable us to be at the forefront of future mobility. It will ensure that we have products ready to insure the vehicles on our roads as they evolve and change.”

Daniela Petrovic, co-founder of Darwin, said: “As the transportation and insurance industries are interwoven, it’s important for insurers to develop as transport evolves. With the expertise we’ve developed through over two years of autonomous vehicle operation. Moreover, we’re working closely with Aviva to help make widespread autonomous transport a practical reality.”

News related to Darwin –

  1. Darwin collaborates with Cognizant for wider reach in autonomous vehicle market
  2. Aviva to study Darwin autonomous vehicle trial
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