Uber-Like Video Service DropIn Lets Adjusters Assess Damage from Desks….

A new service promises to provide insurance claims adjusters with videos of losses without them ever having to leave their desks. The videos would be supplied by an Uber-like network of smartphone users and, eventually, also drone operators.

Los Angeles-based DropIn Inc. is offering an on-demand streaming video service that allows adjusters to direct a contracted smartphone user to the exact area they’d like to cover – while remaining in their office.

Adjusters would also be able to obtain first notice of loss by sending a link to a customer calling in with a claim, allowing the customer to stream a video of the damage back to the claims adjuster.

The firm, which was founded in May 2015 by entrepreneur Louis Ziskin, hopes to expand the service by making drone operators available later this year. The drone service is currently in beta.

DropIn current claims to have a network of 64,000 independent contractor smartphone users called Droperators and more than 1,100 drone pilots worldwide, with 50 percent being former military veterans.

DropIn explains how the service works in a video on its website: The adjuster enters the address of the location they are interested in viewing via the Desktop platform or app. Based on proximity, the closest Droperator is notified via a text message on their smartphone that they have a live stream request. After accepting the request assignment, the Droperator deploys to the location, and when the Droperator is within 100 feet of the destination, the user’s screen changes to “launch” letting them know they can start recording. The Droperator initiates the live stream and is able to communicate with the insurance professional and capture all requested photos and video of the damaged property.

According to the company, Droperators do not have access to the photos or videos they create. Only users can download recordings. Adjusters obtain the videos and data and can retain a history on the client. None of the data or personal information is stored on DropIn’s server or on the Droperator’s smartphone, according to the firm.

The company’s website acknowledges that there may be issues about carrier requirements and licensing of its remote video suppliers. “Much like Uber, there are varying requirements for DropIn. Some clients may require a background check and or licensing,” the web site informs prospective Droperators.

The company claims that its technology is a convenience for insurers seeking to preview risk for underwriting, supplementing any current live video they use for policy acquisition and claim management purposes.

“With the fires in the west, and the flooding down south, providing adjusters access to drones will save a lot of time and frustration for the claimant experiencing the loss, and the adjuster trying to help,” says Ziskin.

Drones may help minimize the risk to claims professionals during rooftop inspections and, in the event of a catastrophe, allow adjusters to access insured properties in restricted areas. The live-streamed aerial coverage also helps insurers process more claims in a shorter period of time, according to DropIn.

Founder Ziskin was cited by Entrepreneur magazine as an entrepreneur pioneer to watchin 2016. The publication describes him as “a philanthropist who speaks nationally about causes like anti-recidivism and addiction recovery.” Ziskin was jailed for 12 years after being convicted in a government seizure of the drug ecstasy and now speaks out about the importance of preventing addiction in young people.

The company lists professional golfer Anthony Kim as an advisor and several executives as partners including Tony Canas, a middle market underwriter with Liberty Mutual and InsNerds.com blog founder; Andrew Brady, a courier and delivery industry veteran and mixed martial arts ring announcer; and Ben Parr, author of “Captivology: The Science of Capturing People’s Attention” and a former editor at Mashable and columnist for CNET.

The service is also being marketed to automotive dealers to let customers view cars remotely.

SOURCE:  http://www.claimsjournal.com/news/national/2016/09/08/273315.htm

Tesla’s Software Update Stops Automatic Steering if Driver is Inattentive

Tesla Motors says a software update to its Autopilot system will disable automatic steering if drivers don’t keep their hands on the wheel.

The update also adds multiple features, including improved radar, better voice commands and an industry-first temperature control system that helps prevent kids and pets from overheating.

Tesla started moving the update to Model X SUV and Model S sedan owners Wednesday night over the internet.

Tesla’s Autopilot system, which was unveiled last fall, uses cameras and radar to maintain a set speed, brake automatically and change lanes without the driver’s input. Drivers can keep their hands off the wheel for minutes at a time, depending on road conditions. Critics questioned whether the system was ready to be on the road this summer after a driver using Autopilot was killed when his Model S sedan struck a tractor-trailer in Florida.

TeslaTesla says the software update should help avoid crashes, since it will enhance the radar system and make Tesla’s vehicles rely more on radar signals – which can see through snow, bright sun and other weather conditions – than cameras. The new radar can detect braking in cars up to two lengths ahead and has a clearer picture of the road than the previous version. The company also redesigned its indicator lights to more clearly show when Autopilot is engaged.

If drivers ignore three warnings to place their hands on the wheel, the automatic steering will be disabled and won’t resume until the car is parked. As in earlier versions, the car will slow to a stop if the warnings are ignored.

It’s unclear if the changes will be enough for government regulators, who have been investigating Tesla since learning about the Florida crash. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has said that Tesla provided the agency with information about its changes, and the agency is reviewing them.

The software update also allows Teslas to:

– Automatically move around slower vehicles that are partially off the right side of the road;

– Automatically navigate highway interchanges. Previous versions required drivers to turn off Autopilot on off-ramps;

– Automatically adapt curve speeds based on learning from previous Tesla drivers;

– Search for destinations using a single voice command;

– Automatically turn on the air conditioner to keep the car at 105 degrees or lower to help protect children or pets.

SOURCE: http://www.claimsjournal.com/news/national/2016/09/26/273735.htm

Regulators Approve Property Rate Hikes for Florida Citizens Customers

One of Florida’s largest property insurers is going to raise its rates again in the coming year.

State regulators late Friday announced that it had approved premium hikes being sought by Citizens Property Insurance. The state-created Citizens has nearly 500,000 customers across the state.

Even though Florida has been relatively hurricane-free for the past decade, Citizens officials contended that it needed to raise its rates to deal with rising claims associated with water losses not associated with storms.

Citizens officials also contend that the insurer is dealing with higher costs because property owners are signing over rights to insurance policy benefits to contractors.

Barry Gilway, president and CEO of Citizens, said in a statement that unless legislators place limits on the ability of homeowners to assign benefits over to contractors “our policyholders can expect these increases for years to come.” Contractors, however, have disputed the extent of the problem.

The rate hikes approved by the Office of Insurance Regulation vary by the type of policy purchased and by location.

Homeowners with a comprehensive policy with Citizens will see their rates go up by an average of 6.4 percent next February.

Some customers may see their rates go down. Citizens officials estimate that as many as 100,000 customers may pay less next year.

Citizens customers, however, who live near the coast and purchase just wind coverage will have an average increase of 8.2 percent. Many of these customers live in Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties.

Citizens is considered the so-called “insurer of last resort” and covers many homeowners who have been unable to obtain coverage from private insurance companies.

SOURCE: http://www.claimsjournal.com/news/southeast/2016/09/20/273581.htm

U.S. to Unveil Safety Standards for Autonomous Vehicles

Autonomous car driverless self drivingter Car On Road

The Obama administration’s proposed guidelines for self-driving cars, to be formally unveiled Tuesday, include 15 benchmarks automakers will need to meet before their autonomous vehicles can hit the road.

The companies will have to show how their virtual drivers will function, what happens if they fail and how they’ve been tested, according to a preview by the U.S. Transportation Department. The automakers must make vehicle performance assessments public so regulators and other companies can evaluate them.

“It’s in their vested interest to be as up front and transparent as possible,” Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said Monday on a call with reporters. “There’s market risk in putting a product out there that doesn’t meet the expectations of the public.”

Companies that have invested in developing the vehicles, including Tesla Motors Inc., General Motors Co. and Google parent Alphabet Inc., say federal leadership is needed to keep states from passing their own contradictory laws. The Self-Driving Coalition for Safer Streets, whose members include Uber Technologies Inc. and Lyft Inc., supports standardizing automated car policies among the states, spokesman David Strickland said in a statement.

At the same time, companies have urged regulators to use a light touch, so as to not kill off innovation — a pleading the administration appears to have heeded.

‘Thoughtful’ Guidelines

Ford Motor Co. called the administration’s guidelines “thoughtful” and an attempt to ensure the U.S. continues to innovate.

“Importantly, the guidance will help establish the basis for a national framework that enables the safe deployment of autonomous vehicles,” according to a statement from the Dearborn, Michigan-based company. “Strides in this technology have the potential to improve safety on our roads and reduce congestion in urban areas.”

Questions about self-driving car safety were elevated in July, when a fatal crash involving a Tesla vehicle was made public. The incident happened May 7 when the Model S was being driven by the car’s “autopilot” system. The car failed to distinguish between a white truck blocking the road and the brightly lit sky, Tesla said.

The new guidelines include recommendations for states to pass legislation on introducing self-driving cars safely on their highways. It says states should continue to license human drivers, enforce traffic laws, inspect vehicles for safety and regulate insurance and liability. The federal government, it said, should set standards for equipment, including the computers that could potentially take over the driving function. It will also continue to investigate safety defect and enforce recalls.

President Barack Obama wrote an op-ed in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette saying automated vehicles have the potential to dramatically reduce the number of people who die on the roads. The administration’s guidance will promote safety, he wrote.

“If a self-driving car isn’t safe, we have the authority to pull it off the road,” Obama wrote. “We won’t hesitate to protect the American public’s safety.”

Annual Updates

Portions of the proposed guidelines will be effective immediately. Other elements will go into effect after public comments are received and analyzed. The government said it will update its self-driving car guidelines annually.

Earlier this year, the Transportation Department said it would allow automakers that can demonstrate they have developed a safe autonomous vehicle to apply for exemptions to certain rules. It marked a new approach to auto regulations designed to ensure the government doesn’t stand in the way of technological progress.

Regulators promised a quick response to companies that ask for interpretations of safety regulations applied to new autonomous features that seem to fall through the cracks of current rules. In one of the first applications of that policy, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said in February that Google’s artificial intelligence system would be considered a driver under federal rules.

“We’ve envisioned a future where you can take your hands off the wheel, and the wheel out of the car,” said Jeff Zients, director of the White House’s National Economic Council. “Your commute becomes productive and restful rather than exhausting.”

Mark Rosekind, NHTSA’s administrator, has said the self-driving car plan would be key to the agency’s attempts to reduce human error, which the agency estimates is a factor in 94 percent of fatal car crashes. Those crashes killed more than 35,000 people in the U.S. last year.

Emerging Technology

Earlier this year, Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx announced a $4 billion grant over 10 years to fund pilot projects with automated vehicles. That proposal hasn’t gone anywhere in Congress, which would have to approve the funds.

The guidelines being issued Tuesday attempt to clarify how current rules and regulations, formed in the 1960s, will be applied to emerging technology. The Transportation Department plans on issuing interpretation letters explaining how emerging technologies can comply with current law, promising to respond to company requests in 60 days.

The new rules include a path for going fully driverless by removing the requirement that a human serve as a backup, according to two people familiar with the rulemaking. Bryan Thomas, a NHTSA spokesman, declined to comment on that before Tuesday’s formal announcement.

California’s Proposal

The development is important because some state regulators, including California, have proposed that humans must be ready to take over in robot cars at a moment’s notice. Google’s self-driving car project and others have objected, saying that limitation could stifle development of the technology because it would require robot rides to have steering wheels, gas and brake pedals, at least in the test phase.

Federal safety regulators appear ready to follow the precedent they already set for Google earlier this year, when it recognized its self-driving software as the “driver” of its fully autonomous test vehicles. The new federal rules are just proposals and much could change, said the people, who asked not to be identified revealing internal discussions. But it would would be welcome by companies like Google, Uber and Ford, which plan to deploy fully autonomous vehicles within the next five years.

General Motors expressed support for the effort to speed the deployment of the vehicles, which it said could dramatically improve safety.

“We welcome the effort, will review the guidance and look forward to continuing the constructive dialogue on how to safely deploy AVs as quickly as possible,” the company said in a written statement.

SOURCE: http://www.insurancejournal.com/news/national/2016/09/20/426963.htm

Hacking Risk and Liability Issues Don’t Deter Makers of Driverless Cars

A red VW Golf jerks back and forth as it maneuvers into a parking space in the English spa town of Cheltenham. The halting efforts resemble those of a new driver, and in a sense they are — just not from the person sitting at the wheel.

The car itself is navigating into the spot, which it manages without a scratch. The man in the driver’s seat, who has his hands resting leisurely on his lap except for the occasional gear change, is a mere onlooker in this demonstration of the latest automated-car technology.

While the idea of robo-cars whisking us off to our destinations may sound like science fiction, the technology exists and is largely ready for the real world. What’s harder to determine is the risk associated with the emergence of these vehicles.

If automakers effectively take the wheel, that puts them in the firing line for liability suits stemming from accidents. The vehicles would also be exposed to threats from hackers who could hijack cars and potentially control them remotely, turning them into mules for criminal purposes or even using them as weapons.

“A hacker could redirect a whole bunch of traffic to gridlock a city” or even “kidnap people,” said Wil Rockall, director of information protection at consulting company KPMG in Tonbridge, England. “The risk goes from being one of human error on the part of the driver or road user to being human error on the part of a developer.”

Autonomous S-Class

Still, such worst-case scenarios aren’t halting efforts to push the technology, which is forecast to become an $87 billion market by 2030, according to Boston-based Lux Research. The Golf’s self-directed parking job in the August presentation by Volkswagen AG is just one example of the trend.

Google Inc. unveiled a cartoonish prototype of a self- driving car in May. A Mercedes-Benz S-Class drove itself 100 kilometers (62 miles) through real daytime traffic on crowded German roads last year, and parent Daimler AG is developing self-driving trucks.

The prospect of cars being controlled by online navigation systems is troubling to regulators and law enforcers. The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation has determined that hackers could take over automated vehicles and use them as “lethal weapons,” the Guardian reported in July, citing a study obtained by the British newspaper.

Yet there are benefits as well. The FBI report acknowledged that police could monitor connected cars more easily. In any case, automakers are attuned to the risks.

‘Stumbling Block’

“The biggest stumbling block to any of these things is car security and also liability,” said Gavin Ward, a spokesman for Bayerische Motoren Werke AG. “Those are the sort of issues that are still being worked out.” The Munich-based carmaker has tested self-driving technology on the German autobahn.

Volkswagen, based in Wolfsburg, Germany, is also keeping its eye on the tactics of cyber criminals to keep a step ahead, spokesman Paul Buckett said at the demonstration in Cheltenham. Google declined to make someone available to discuss risks associated with their automotive efforts.

To limit hacker risk, autonomous cars will need “much more security” and that requires constant monitoring, said Andrew Miller, chief technical officer at Thatcham Research, which supplies data to British vehicle insurers. “As fast as people come up with software and encryption processes, the criminals come up with ways around them.”

Aside from worst-case risks like remote carjacking, there’s the mundane question of who’s to blame in an accident when human error is no longer an issue. That could ease the burden on the driver, as the responsibility shifts to carmakers.

No Fatigue

Because robotic vehicles don’t suffer from daydreaming and fatigue, “you are going to have a lower frequency of incidents because these cars are an awful lot safer,” said Murray Raisbeck, a partner at KPMG’s insurance practice. “However, if something does go wrong, the severity could be an awful lot greater.”

The change in liability could shift the burden of insuring against accidents to carmakers, suppliers and developers, while consumers would pay less. That might hit the auto insurance business, which is worth $200 billion a year in the U.S., according to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners.

“It is difficult to be precise on what impact driverless cars will have for us, but we know there are going to be issues,” said Alan Gairns, product manager for home and motor insurance at Allianz SE in the U.K.

SOURCE:  http://www.insurancejournal.com/news/national/2014/09/04/339497.htm