What is the insurer's role within an innovative transition?

On 16 April is the International Insurance Fund seminar. The focus is: What is the future of mobility in the next 10 years given technological developments and human behaviour? And what is the impact of this on insurers? We invite several speakers for this, including Johannes Kester, who conducted research on this at Oxford University.


Johannes Kester did PhD research on energy security, then did three years of postdoctoral research in Denmark on how we as a society are going through and can accelerate the mobility transition to electric mobility. His research included where car manufacturers, traders, car park operators, electricity grid operators and consumers are up against and how the government can remove any obstacles and support the mobility transition. After those three years, he picked up this and similar questions on electrification and automation in road transport at the Transport Studies Unit in Oxford as Senior Researcher.

At Oxford, among other things, he did major research on how insurers view the big changes we are seeing in the mobility industry. Johannes: "From transport, we talk a lot about insurers, but we don't communicate much with them and there was little research on how insurers are in the mobility field. I am very interested in how insurers are affected by those changes in terms of electrification, automation, by increasing data we can get from cars, but also from mobility behaviour. How does that affect insurers. But certainly also the other way around; How did insurers influence those innovations and techniques? I have been mapping this playing field for the past three years. Issues in this are; How do you arrange this within the organisation? What do you run into? Do you lobby as an industry and as an individual insurer? I wanted to know; how conservative are insurers? But also; what are the differences within Europe?"

Why do you think it is important to speak at the Guarantee Fund seminar?

I want to shed light on the role of insurers within the mobility transition, beyond the technological plane. That doesn't mean having an immediate answer. It's about starting the conversation, finding starting points. To identify interests and share them with each other. Insurers play an important role in how people move, in our mobility choices and how we drive. Good behaviour is rewarded with points, bad behaviour is punished by higher premiums. This is where awareness is important for insurers. Insurers are also governed themselves; by innovations or by governments instituting new laws and regulations.

In the transition, we have several parties; the consumer, the government, (EU, national, municipalities), the car manufacturers doing the innovations, and the insurers. From the mobility transition, the latter party is the only one with the legal and technical knowledge, the economic capital and the technical know-how to counter the car manufacturers. Insurers have a balancing role in this.

What would you like to give visitors to the seminar?

"I want to hold up a mirror to insurers. I can point out what insurers' challenges are, but they know them best themselves. What I find interesting is to look from that transition: 'What is the insurer's role within the mobility transition?' Do they have a role? Do they have a responsibility? Here I don't just focus on technology, communication standards, legal definitions or risk models, but I talk about the importance of trust, language and relationships, for example. To give an example: A new innovation, such as a self-driving car, how do you insure it? Assumptions are made for that, but what are they based on? What kind of stance is taken on safety? When do we know "enough"? The social aspect in this is very important - do you trust the manufacturer? The data? The user? In the insurance industry, it's obviously about translating uncertainty into trust (and then into knowledge and data), but how do you deal with different forms of uncertainty? You notice that everyone is searching for their role within the future of mobility with an eye on climate and safety, government, insurers and car manufacturers alike. Then it's about a shared search for knowledge, maintaining relationships and uncertainties."