Vehicle Insurance

Patent Issued for Accident fault determination for autonomous vehicles (USPTO 11127086): State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company

2021 OCT 13 (NewsRx) — By a News Reporter-Staff News Editor at Insurance Daily NewsState Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company (Bloomington, Illinois, United States) has been issued patent number 11127086, according to news reporting originating out of Alexandria, Virginia, by NewsRx editors.

The patent’s inventors are Christensen, Scott T. (Salem, OR, US), Farris, Scott (Bloomington, IL, US), Hayward, Gregory (Bloomington, IL, US), Konrardy, Blake (San Francisco, CA, US).

This patent was filed on June 8, 2020 and was published online on September 21, 2021.

From the background information supplied by the inventors, news correspondents obtained the following quote: “Vehicle or automobile insurance exists to provide financial protection against physical damage and/or bodily injury resulting from traffic accidents and against liability that could arise therefrom. Typically, a customer purchases a vehicle insurance policy for a policy rate having a specified term. In exchange for payments from the insured customer, the insurer pays for damages to the insured which are caused by covered perils, acts, or events as specified by the language of the insurance policy. The payments from the insured are generally referred to as “premiums,” and typically are paid on behalf of the insured over time at periodic intervals. An insurance policy may remain “in-force” while premium payments are made during the term or length of coverage of the policy as indicated in the policy. An insurance policy may “lapse” (or have a status or state of “lapsed”), for example, when premium payments are not being paid or if the insured or the insurer cancels the policy.

“Premiums may be typically determined based upon a selected level of insurance coverage, location of vehicle operation, vehicle model, and characteristics or demographics of the vehicle operator. The characteristics of a vehicle operator that affect premiums may include age, years operating vehicles of the same class, prior incidents involving vehicle operation, and losses reported by the vehicle operator to the insurer or a previous insurer. Past and current premium determination methods do not, however, account for use of autonomous vehicle operating features. The present embodiments may, inter alia, alleviate this and/or other drawbacks associated with conventional techniques.”

Supplementing the background information on this patent, NewsRx reporters also obtained the inventors’ summary information for this patent: “The present embodiments may be related to autonomous or semi-autonomous vehicle functionality, including driverless operation, accident avoidance, or collision warning systems. These autonomous vehicle operation features may either assist the vehicle operator to more safely or efficiently operate a vehicle or may take full control of vehicle operation under some or all circumstances. The present embodiments may also facilitate risk assessment and premium determination for vehicle insurance policies covering vehicles with autonomous operation features.

“In accordance with the described embodiments, the disclosure herein generally addresses systems and methods for monitoring the use of a vehicle having one or more autonomous (and/or semi-autonomous) operation features and determining fault following the occurrence of an accident involving the vehicle. An on-board computer or mobile device may monitor and record vehicle operating data, including sensor data and data from the one or more autonomous operation features. A server may receive the operating data and may process this data to determine the cause of and fault for the accident. These fault determination may then be used (wholly or partially) to determine an adjustment to an insurance policy associated with the vehicle and/or an adjustment to risk levels associated with the autonomous operation features.

“In one aspect, a computer-implemented method for determining fault relating to a collision or other loss may be provided. The computer-implemented method may include receiving an indication of an accident involving a vehicle having one or more autonomous (and/or semi-autonomous) operation features for controlling the vehicle, receiving operating data regarding operation of the vehicle during a time period including the time of the accident, receiving information regarding use levels of the one or more autonomous operation features during the time period including the time of the accident, and/or determining an allocation of fault for the accident based upon, at least in part (i.e., wholly or partially), the received operating data and the use levels of the one or more autonomous operation features. The indication of the accident may be generated based upon, at least in part (i.e., wholly or partially), the received operating data. The operating data may include information from one or more sensors disposed within the vehicle and/or information regarding the operation of the one or more autonomous operation features. Additionally, the autonomous operation features may include one or more autonomous communication features, in which case the operating data may include communication data from external sources. The method may include additional, fewer, or alternate actions, including those discussed elsewhere herein.

“In another aspect, a computer system for determining fault relating to a collision or other loss may be provided. The computer system may include one or more processors, one or more communication modules adapted to communicate data, and a non-transitory program memory coupled to the one or more processors and storing executable instructions. The executable instruction may, when executed by the one or more processors, cause the computer system to receive an indication of an accident involving a vehicle having one or more autonomous (and/or semi-autonomous) operation features for controlling the vehicle, receive operating data regarding operation of the vehicle during a time period including the time of the accident, receive information regarding use levels of the one or more autonomous operation features during the time period including the time of the accident, and/or determine an allocation of fault for the accident based upon the received operating data and the use levels of the one or more autonomous operation features. The indication of the accident may be generated based upon the received operating data. The operating data may include information from one or more sensors disposed within the vehicle and/or information regarding the operation of the one or more autonomous operation features. Additionally, the autonomous operation features may include one or more autonomous communication features, in which case the operating data may include communication data from external sources. The system may include additional, fewer, or alternate actions, including those discussed elsewhere herein.

“In yet another aspect, a tangible, non-transitory computer-readable medium storing instructions for determining fault relating to a collision or other loss may be provided. The instructions may, when executed by at least one processor of a computer system, cause the computer system to receive an indication of an accident involving a vehicle having one or more autonomous (and/or semi-autonomous) operation features for controlling the vehicle, receive operating data regarding operation of the vehicle during a time period including the time of the accident, receive information regarding use levels of the one or more autonomous operation features during the time period including the time of the accident, and/or determine an allocation of fault for the accident based upon the received operating data and the use levels of the one or more autonomous operation features. The indication of the accident may be generated based upon the received operating data. The operating data may include information from one or more sensors disposed within the vehicle and/or information regarding the operation of the one or more autonomous operation features. Additionally, the autonomous operation features may include one or more autonomous communication features, in which case the operating data may include communication data from external sources. The instructions of the computer-readable medium may include additional, fewer, or alternate actions, including those discussed elsewhere herein.”

The claims supplied by the inventors are:

“1. A computer-implemented method for determining fault relating to a collision or other loss, comprising: receiving, at one or more processors, operating data regarding operation of a vehicle during a collision, wherein the operating data includes sensor data from one or more vehicle sensors and information regarding operation of one or more autonomous operation features of the vehicle, including control signals generated by the one or more autonomous operation features to control the vehicle; receiving, at one or more processors, information regarding use levels of the one or more autonomous operation features during the collision, wherein the use levels indicate a value of at least one variable setting of at least one of the one or more autonomous operation features enabled during the collision; and automatically determining, by one or more processors and without human involvement, an allocation of fault for the collision using the received operating data and the use levels of the one or more autonomous operation features by (i) determining that the use levels indicate the one or more autonomous operation features were configured and operating to control an aspect of vehicle operation during the collision, and (ii) determining, by comparing intended control actions of the one or more autonomous operation features indicated by the control signals against observed operation of the vehicle indicated by the sensor data, relative fault between the one or more autonomous operation features and other control components configured to implement control actions for the vehicle based upon the control signals.

“2. The computer-implemented method of claim 1, wherein determining the allocation of fault includes allocating, by one or more processors, fault for the collision between one or more of the following: a vehicle operator, the one or more autonomous operation features as a group, each of the one or more autonomous operation features separately, or a third party.

“3. The computer-implemented method of claim 1, further comprising: determining, by one or more processors, an adjustment to a cost associated with a vehicle insurance policy based at least in part upon the allocation of fault when the at least a portion of the fault is determined to be allocated to a vehicle operator.

“4. The computer-implemented method of claim 3, wherein the cost associated with the vehicle insurance policy includes at least one of the following a premium, a rate, or a rate category.

“5. The computer-implemented method of claim 1, further comprising: determining, by one or more processors, an adjustment to a risk level associated with the one or more autonomous operation features based at least in part upon the allocation of fault when the at least a portion of the fault is determined to be allocated to the one or more autonomous operation features.

“6. The computer-implemented method of claim 1, wherein determining the allocation of fault further includes determining, by one or more processors, one or more of the following: a point of impact on the vehicle, a point of impact on one or more additional vehicles, a velocity of the vehicle, a velocity of one or more additional vehicles, a movement of the vehicle, a movement of one or more additional vehicles, a location of one or more obstructions, a movement of one or more obstructions, a location of one or more pedestrians, a movement of one or more pedestrians, a measure of road surface integrity, a measure of road surface friction, a location of one or more traffic signs, a location of one or more traffic signals, or an indication of a state of one or more traffic signals.

“7. The computer-implemented method of claim 1, wherein determining the allocation of fault further includes determining, by one or more processors, a control signal generated by one or more autonomous operation features of the vehicle.

“8. The computer-implemented method of claim 1, wherein determining the allocation of fault further includes determining, by one or more processors, a control signal generated by one or more autonomous operation features of one or more additional vehicles.

“9. The computer-implemented method of claim 1, further comprising: presenting, via a display, the automatically determined allocation of fault to a human reviewer.

“10. The computer-implemented method of claim 1 wherein the operating data includes communication data from external sources.

“11. A computer system for determining fault relating to a collision or other loss, comprising: one or more processors; one or more communication modules adapted to communicate data; and a non-transitory program memory coupled to the one or more processors and storing executable instructions that when executed by the one or more processors cause the computer system to: receive operating data regarding operation of a vehicle during a collision, wherein the operating data includes sensor data from one or more vehicle sensors and information regarding operation of one or more autonomous operation features of the vehicle, including control signals generated by the one or more autonomous operation features to control the vehicle; receive information regarding use levels of the one or more autonomous operation features during the collision, wherein the use levels indicate a value of at least one variable setting of at least one of the one or more autonomous operation features enabled during the collision; and automatically determine, without human involvement an allocation of fault for the collision using the received operating data and the use levels of the one or more autonomous operation features by (i) determining whether the use levels indicate the one or more autonomous operation features were configured and operating to control an aspect of vehicle operation during the collision, and (ii) determining, by comparing intended control actions of the one or more autonomous operation features indicated by control signals against observed operation of the vehicle indicated by the sensor data, relative fault between the one or more autonomous operation features and other control components configured to implement control actions for the vehicle based upon the control signals.

“12. The computer system of claim 11, wherein instructions that cause the computer system to determine the allocation of fault further cause the computer system to allocate fault for the collision between one or more of the following: a vehicle operator, the one or more autonomous operation features as a group, each of the one or more autonomous operation features separately, or a third party.

“13. The computer system of claim 11, wherein the instructions further cause the computer system to: determine an adjustment to a cost associated with a vehicle insurance policy based upon the allocation of fault when the at least a portion of the fault is determined to be allocated to a vehicle operator.

“14. The computer system of claim 11, wherein the instructions further cause the computer system to: determine an adjustment to a risk level associated with the one or more autonomous operation features based at least in part upon the allocation of fault when the at least a portion of the fault is determined to be allocated to the one or more autonomous operation features.

“15. The computer system of claim 11, wherein the instructions further cause the computer system to: present the automatically determined allocation of fault to a human reviewer.

“16. The computer system of claim 11, wherein the instructions that cause the computer system to determine the allocation of fault further include instructions that cause the computer system to determine one or more of the following: a point of impact on the vehicle, a point of impact on one or more additional vehicles, a velocity of the vehicle, a velocity of one or more additional vehicles, a movement of the vehicle, a movement of one or more additional vehicles, a location of one or more obstructions, a movement of one or more obstructions, a location of one or more pedestrians, a movement of one or more pedestrians, a measure of road surface integrity, a measure of road surface friction, a location of one or more traffic signs, a location of one or more traffic signals, or an indication of a state of one or more traffic signals.

“17. The computer system of claim 11, wherein the instructions that cause the computer system to determine the allocation of fault further include instructions that cause the computer system to determine one or more of the following: a control signal generated by one or more autonomous operation features of the vehicle, or a control signal generated by one or more autonomous operation features of one or more additional vehicles.”

There are additional claims. Please visit full patent to read further.

For the URL and additional information on this patent, see: Christensen, Scott T. Accident fault determination for autonomous vehicles. U.S. Patent Number 11127086, filed June 8, 2020, and published online on September 21, 2021. Patent URL: http://patft.uspto.gov/netacgi/nph-Parser?Sect1=PTO1&Sect2=HITOFF&d=PALL&p=1&u=%2Fnetahtml%2FPTO%2Fsrchnum.htm&r=1&f=G&l=50&s1=11127086.PN.&OS=PN/11127086RS=PN/11127086

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