A Silicon Valley company called Nauto announced a partnership with Toyota’s Research Institute, BMWi Ventures (a venture capital company founded by BMW), and insurance company Allianz Ventures to bring driver analysis to autonomous vehicles.
Nauto currently produces a $400 aftermarket camera- and sensor-equipped device that attaches to a car’s windshield to analyze driver behavior. According to Reuters, the device is part-dash cam—snapping footage and tagging “events” like accidents—and part-driver monitor—detecting possible driver distraction in the car like drinking or texting. Nauto then collects and anonymizes this information to draw conclusions about driver habits, intersections, and congestion in certain areas.
The company, which was founded just last year, has so far geared its product toward managers of commercial and passenger fleets who want more information about their drivers and the routes they take.
But the partnership with Allianz Ventures is particularly interesting because better and cheaper tech, as well as autonomy in vehicles, both have the potential to change the insurance industry. As dash cams and driver monitoring systems like Nauto’s become less expensive, insurance companies can use that footage to assess driver behavior and tailor their rates accordingly. But with the advent of the fully self-driving car, who pays for insurance becomes a different question.
According to Forbes, Google, Mercedes, and Volvo are self-insuring their autonomous vehicles—their software is driving the car, after all. That same Forbes article suggests that insurance companies could cope with the loss of business from much safer, computer-driven vehicles by offering real-time insurance, sensing whether a driver is trying to operate a self-driving vehicle while intoxicated and raising their insurance rate for that ride only, for example.
That’s in the future though. Currently Nauto’s system will be integrated in test cars built by Toyota and BMW to “help develop their autonomous vehicle strategies,” Reuters says. It’s unclear what the terms of the deal involve, and Reuters says that another, unnamed automaker has also invested in Nauto.
But eventually Nauto wants its system built natively into new cars. In a press release, the company said its agreements with BMWi Ventures, Toyota Research Institute, and Allianz Ventures “enable Nauto to significantly grow its artificial intelligence-powered deep learning network and accelerate deployment into shared vehicle fleets and eventually migrate from retrofit device into new production vehicles.”