New technology can be enticing or intimidating. Few new technologies, however, have aroused more anxiety and misunderstanding than artificial intelligence, or AI. Is AI a force for good or a threat to jobs and security? Sompo Japan Nipponkoa, a major subsidiary of property and casualty insurance in Japan, believes that AI can transform our lives in positive ways. And there is no better way to put that belief to the test than to test drive an AI-controlled autonomous vehicle.
In an ideal world, self-driving vehicles would be a boon. They could reduce accidents, bring public transport to remote areas, provide mobility to those unable to drive themselves, and bring efficiency, cost savings, and environmental benefits. In the real world, many of us would hesitate to turn over control of our cars and put AI in the driver’s seat. Even though AI already handles many vehicle support systems without drivers realizing it.
SOMPO is working on solutions to ease driver concerns and ensure autonomous vehicles will be the safest and smartest vehicles on the road. The company is engaged in experimentation, innovation, and partnerships to achieve that outcome. In 2018, SOMPO opened the Connected Support Center, a facility dedicated to testing self-driving cars and associated technologies. SOMPO’s research uses the latest advances in the Internet of Things. The center develops and conducts trials of remote monitoring and control interventions to prevent and respond to accidents.
That brand of research may seem unusual for an insurance company. Not for SOMPO. Research and development are part of the company’s pivot from being an insurer that responds to accidents to becoming a provider of solutions and services to prevent accidents. It exemplifies SOMPO’s vision of building “A Theme Park for Security, Health, and Wellbeing” to serve and advance society.
To get more mileage out of its research, SOMPO recently forged a partnership with Tier IV, a deep tech startup that provides automated driving technology to build safe intelligent vehicles, and Aisan Technology, which creates high-precision 3D mapping and drive-simulation technologies. Using SOMPO’s big data, they are jointly developing Level IV Discovery, an insurtech solution for safe and systematic pilot testing of autonomous vehicles.
Level IV Discovery is essential for local governments and transportation operators aiming to introduce automated driving services for their constituents and customers. Earlier this year, the partners began testing Level IV Discovery prototypes and plan to start offering practical solutions for municipalities and companies in 2020. The wealth of data these prototypes are collecting will inform risk analysis as well as refine self-driving technology and lay a foundation for more discoveries.
Discoveries are at the heart of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. As we accelerate into this new technological era, SOMPO is determined to use its big data, ingenuity, and innovative spirit as a force for good; to ensure that our journey into the future will be smooth, safe, and beneficial for all. Sit back and enjoy the ride.