Aviva and Darwin expand autonomous vehicle insurance project

The autonomous shuttle, wrapped in yellow and blue Aviva branding

In late 2021, insurer Aviva and autonomous vehicle operator Darwin Innovation Group partnered to launch the Darwin Autonomous Shuttle, the longest-running self-driving passenger service in the UK. Now, after two years of operation, Aviva and Darwin have teamed up with the University of Salford to add a second self-driving shuttle to the service.

Like the original Darwin Autonomous Shuttle, the new shuttle has no driver and no steering wheel, instead using 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, in an ongoing project supported by the European Space Agency and UK Space Agency. However, through its collaboration with Darwin, the University of Salford hopes to learn more about autonomous vehicle operation, and ultimately 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 with Aviva to enable a greater understanding of how connected and autonomous vehicles (CAVs) should be insured. The introduction of a second shuttle will enrich the data and 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.”

The autonomous shuttle bus, parked up

One of the aspects Darwin is testing is the ability of these autonomous vehicles to make journeys on demand. This feature lets passengers call the shuttle to pick them up from a specific stop on the vehicle’s route. On-demand passenger CAVs could be deployed more widely in the future, reducing dependence 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, providing valuable insights into claims, underwriting, risk and product areas. This will enable us to be at the forefront of future mobility and 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, we’re working closely with Aviva to help make widespread autonomous transport a practical reality.”



Claire Jermany

General Insurance⁠ — Commercial Lines, Community, Heritage

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