The future of autonomy post-lockdown


Authored by AXA XL Autonomous Technologies Underwriter Veysel Sinan Geylani

The unprecedented lockdown imposed by governments across the world to try to combat the spread of the COVID-19 virus has impacted societies and businesses in many ways. Individuals and business across the globe have found new ways of working to adapt to the need for social distancing and restricted movement of people.

For many industries, this has meant an uptick in their use of autonomous technologies to perform certain functions to reduce the need for physical contact between human beings.

From urgent medical apparatus to pizzas, autonomous vehicles have been used to deliver supplies to those who need them, without the need for human contact. In China, where COVID-19 first had a dramatic impact at the start of this year, many providers have expedited their adoption of driverless delivery vehicles, for example.

The move to automation shifts the concept of liability from human to systems, technology or parts failure.

Autonomous technology has also been used to help keep supply chains going and to perform safety checks and risk assessments.

Many businesses already had incorporated autonomous technology into their ways of working before the pandemic took hold. But the social distancing restrictions necessitated by the COVID-19 pandemic have prompted many to explore still further the ways that autonomy can help them to operate. Individuals too have become more comfortable with the idea of automation as they have experienced it in use during this time.

The World Economic Forum (WEF) recently published a report, “The Future of the Last Mile Ecosystem”, which predicts that demand for e-commerce delivery will result in 36% more driverless delivery vehicles operating in inner city environments across the world by 2030.

This uptick, the WEF notes, is being fueled in no small part by an increase in demand for contactless deliveries as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The increased use of automation is a trend that is likely to continue once lockdown restrictions are lifted and life gets back to “normal.”

Against this backdrop, risk management and risk transfer has been developing alongside autonomous technology.

At AXA XL we have a track record of working with autonomous technology to understand the risks and opportunities it brings. Our involvement in several projects, notably, our work with the UK-government-backed DRIVEN initiative, has given us valuable insights into the different ways that autonomous technologies and vehicles can be insured.

We were the insurance member of the DRIVEN consortium which deployed a fleet of autonomous vehicles operating at Level 4 autonomy between Oxford and London – the most ambitious autonomy project undertaken at that time.

We also have worked with Oxbotica, a technology company with a focus on mobile robotics and autonomous systems for four years, gaining deep insights into how this technology works and the risks that clients using it will need to understand, manage, mitigate and transfer.

The shift to autonomy changes the risk profile of a company and likely noted on its risk register.

The move to automation shifts the concept of liability from human to systems, technology or parts failure.

In many cases, traditional casualty coverages does not address all the concerns of risk managers whose operations are deploying – or developing – autonomous technologies.

The more development that occurs in this area, the more data we can harness to better understand the risks and opportunities offered by autonomy. Our work in this area demonstrated that a tailored solution for these new and evolving risks was required, leading to the development of our customisable wordings for companies that use – or are developing – autonomous technologies.

Autonomy is an exciting area of opportunity for companies and societies as we begin to emerge from the COVID-19 crisis – and beyond. Autonomous technology will play a role in all of our lives in the years to come, and we are keen to play our part in the development of risk mitigation and transfer to enable this to happen.


About AXA XL

AXA XL is the P&C and specialty risk division of AXA which provides property, casualty, professional and speciality products to industrial, commercial and professional firms, insurance companies and other enterprises, here in the UK and throughout the world. With underwriting teams based in the US, UK, EMEA and Asia Pacific regions, we can make decisions close to the markets you serve and work with you to tailor cover to your business needs.

We help businesses adapt and thrive amidst change. Rather than just paying covered claims when things go wrong, we go beyond protection into prevention so your business can go beyond the unexpected.

Latest video

AXA XL – Your global partner in risk

For mid-sized to multinational clients, AXA XL Insurance offers more than 30 lines of business across Property, Casualty and Specialty risk.From Risk Consulting to,... click here for more