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September 6, 2023

Waymo’s autonomous vehicles are significantly safer than human-driven ones, says new research led by Swiss Re

  • Company News
The Waymo & Swiss Re Teams

Waymo and Swiss Re, one of the world’s leading reinsurers, partnered in 2022 to advance risk assessment methodologies and approaches to evaluating safety of autonomous vehicles.

Today, we’re sharing new research led by Swiss Re which shows Waymo’s autonomous vehicles are significantly safer than those driven by humans. In the over 3.8 million miles that Waymo drove without a human behind the steering wheel across San Francisco, CA and Phoenix, AZ, there were zero bodily injury claims and a significant reduction in the property damage claims frequency.
While the research community and general public have long asked whether an autonomous driver is safer than human drivers, the industry has faced challenges in developing a robust and well-calibrated human performance benchmark for comparison. This study addresses these challenges by establishing a comparison baseline based on liability insurance claims data.

The study compares Waymo’s liability claims data with mileage- and zip-code-calibrated private passenger vehicle (human driver) baselines established by Swiss Re. Based on Swiss Re’s data from over 600,000 claims and over 125 billion miles of exposure, these baselines are extremely robust and highly significant.

The findings indicate that in comparison to the Swiss Re human driver baseline, the Waymo Driver — Waymo’s fully autonomous driving technology — significantly reduced the frequency of property damage claims by 76% (a decrease from 3.26 to 0.78 claims per million miles) when compared to human drivers. Furthermore, it completely eliminated bodily injury claims, a drastic contrast to the Swiss Re human driver baseline of 1.11 claims per million miles.

Liability claims reporting and their evaluation were designed by insurance industry best practices to assess crash causation and predict future crash contributions. Notably, this is the first time that liability claims data is being used to compare the safety performance of autonomous and human drivers, a contribution made possible by the research partnership between Swiss Re and Waymo.

Autonomous driving technology eliminates many risk factors inherent in human driving, such as lack of experience or impaired driving. This will cause a significant shift in how insurance risk is assessed. Swiss Re's collaboration with Waymo which started in 2022 has been addressing these challenges, and this study is an important step towards establishing new approaches to evaluating autonomous vehicle safety.

“The Waymo Driver is already improving road safety in cities where we operate — a conclusion we’ve come to by analyzing our Driver’s safety performance and through peer-reviewed research,” said Mauricio Peña, Chief Safety Officer at Waymo. “This cutting-edge study provides robust evidence that our Driver is in fact reducing injuries on the streets of San Francisco and Phoenix today.”

"This first-of-its-kind research helps illuminate not only the dynamics that govern autonomous vehicle safety, but how the re/insurance industry can provide the level of security and support that will spur widespread adoption of this new technology,” said Luigi Di Lillo, Head Products & Partnerships, P&C Solutions at Swiss Re. "For a long time, there has been a need for a comparison of autonomous vehicle providers and human driven vehicles, and we are now able to provide this."

More information about Swiss Re’s latest research with Waymo can be found here.