Weekly Wrap: Insurance giant gets drone approval

Weekly Wrap: Insurance giant gets drone approval | Insurance Business

Weekly Wrap: Insurance giant gets drone approval
Insurance giant gets drone approval
American International Group will become one of the first insurance companies to use drones to manage risk and assess claims, following approval from the US Federal Aviation Administration.

AIG announced Wednesday that the FAA had agreed to allow the insurer to operate unmanned aerial vehicles to conduct inspections, both for risk assessment and claims management.

“The exemption also permits AIG to implement a robust research and development program to explore new and innovative ways to employ UAVs in support of the needs of customers,” AIG said in a statement.

AIG already has a research and development program in New Zealand, it said, and has begun running test flights with the drones.

The drones will be able to survey property and disaster areas, and take high-resolution images, accelerating the underwriting and claims processes.

The use of drones in property/casualty insurance has been widely speculated, and other insurers—including USAA—have filed requests with the FAA to begin using them. Analysts often cite the benefits associated with claims management in their pursuit of commercial drone use.

“One of the areas we are looking to use these in is before and after natural disasters," said Kathleen Swain, USAA property and casualty group underwriter and FAA-rated commercial pilot.

"It's sometimes much quicker to get the machine out to these disaster zones than a human body. This could help speed up the process and help put them back to where they were before the claims event.”

Concerns for privacy, however, have also emerged.

“Digital eyes will see anything in their view and send back that information to the party collecting the visual data,” writes Steve Doyle of Willis Aerospace.
“This raises privacy concerns issues. Surveillance of employees or non-employees, whether intentional or not, could have serious liability repercussions that will need to be addressed.”

Insurer appoints new GM for NZ
Zurich has appointed Kai Dwyer as general manager, New Zealand and at the same time has confirmed it has agreed to acquire full ownership of the Ontuit Motor IT Platform from its New Zealand founder Kevin Paxton.

Dwyer has held a number of roles with Zurich in Australia including head of international sales and distribution, general manager - customer and distribution and general manager – global corporate.

The New Zealander has more than 32 years of international experience in the insurance industry in helping enterprises to understand and manage their risk, the company said.

He has worked in the risk and insurance management field in London, the Middle East, Switzerland, Canada and Hong Kong as well as Australia and New Zealand.

The role had been covered by underwriting manager Christina Chellew in an acting capacity after the promotion of Adrian Riminton to executive general manager commercial last August.

Meanwhile, Zurich said the acquisition of Ontuit will give the company full control over its commercial motor insurance business in New Zealand.

Commenting on the acquisition, Riminton said: “We have had a professional and productive working relationship with Kevin for many years and we are delighted to have reached agreement to purchase the Ontuit motor platform.”

Zurich said the two announcements highlighted its commitment to strengthening its New Zealand operations.

“Kai Dwyer’s appointment and the acquisition of Ontuit is a demonstration of Zurich’s commitment to the growing New Zealand business and to leveraging our global capabilities for brokers and customers in New Zealand,” Riminton said.
Uber fights against “onerous” US insurance requirements
Ridesharing service Uber is threatening to pull out of certain US states due to insurance requirements it considers onerous, even as a new study of company drivers suggests the vast majority are unaware of the gaps in their insurance policy.

Uber threatened this week to pull out of Kansas if the legislature passes a bill increasing its insurance requirements.

Under the law, drivers would be required to get an insurance rider to cover the period of time in which drivers are working through the Uber app, but have not yet picked up their passengers. Uber rejects the requirement as onerous –a “poison pill” added in by “bank executives”—and has threatened to cease operations in the state.

“People have operated their private vehicles for business purposes for decades and never needed this level of insurance: pizza delivery, lawyers driving clients, healthcare workers with patients, etc. have never had to carry this level of insurance,” said Uber spokeswoman Jennifer Mullin.

It is not the first time Uber has come up against state regulators over this issue. In March, the company made similar threats to leave New Jersey after legislation was introduced that would require Uber’s commercial insurance policy to take effect as soon as drivers log into the mobile app and make themselves available to passengers.

Josh Mohrer, Uber’s general manager for the New York area, acknowledged that drivers’ personal auto insurers do sometimes deny claims for accidents that occur during the gap between the driver logging onto the app and when he or she accepts a ride request, but that personal policies have covered such incidents “more than half the time.”

The insurance industry has largely rejected these claims, and supports efforts such as those in Kansas and New Jersey.

Uber drivers themselves, meanwhile, appear to be unaware of their insurance requirements, or the coverage gap that threatens them.

Josh Waldrum of Austin, Texas-based The Zebra—a digital auto insurance agency and comparison site—went without a car for a month and spoke with drivers about their insurance policies.

A full 92% of drivers Waldrum met had not told their insurers they were driving for ridesharing companies, and another 72% were not familiar with the coverage they were provided by Uber and Lyft.

Legislation is currently pending in at least 35 US states concerning the insurance challenges faced by ridesharing companies and their drivers.