CES 2019: Voice, Connected Homes, and Not-So-Autonomous Cars V 2.

Insurers have breathing room on fully autonomous vehicles, but viable smart home/property solutions are proliferating and speech recognition has achieved human parity.

(Bell Nexus flying taxi. Image source: Bell.)

As always, CES was overwhelming. 4,500 companies exhibiting to over 180,000 attendees.

It might be easier to list some of the things I did not see or do:

  • Ride in the Bell Nexus flying car
  • Eat a next-gen, meatless, Impossible burger
  • Ride in Google’s roller coaster
  • Fold (or talk on) Samsung’s foldable phone

On the other hand, I did see and hear some pretty interesting things about voice, connected homes, and autonomous cars.

I attended a panel discussion on voice and the connected home with panelists from KB Home, Microsoft’s research group, Google’s smart home group, SoundHound, and Nuance. The panel covered some important issues about the rapid development of voice and related technologies.

  • Speech recognition has (more or less) achieved human parity—leading to the question of what’s next. Answers included:
    • Making the voice interface more human by acquiring and processing more information about the speaker and the speaker’s meaning from sentiment analysis, and using machine vision to record and analyze the speaker’s pose, posture, and gestures.
    • Turning interactions with virtual assistants into more human-like conversations—going beyond today’s question/answer and request/fulfillment modes. One panelist reported achieving a conversation with 18 turns (a turn being one exchange between a person and a virtual assistant).
  • Given the complexity of the connected home (devices, networks, hubs, voice and touch UIs), the question of who will own the total ecosystem is going to be very difficult to answer from both a technology and a financial perspective.
    • In general the panelists were in favor of open ecosystems—no “walled gardens.”
    • Which to this analyst sounded like too easy of an answer given the amount of money that will accrue to eventual winner(s).
  • Lastly there was a lot of discussion about privacy. When listening devices, cameras, and embedded sensors turn people’s actions into data, when will people say “enough”?
    • The panelists all agreed privacy, permissions, and compliance were all very important. And certainly all responsible tech firms would be scrupulous regarding these issues.
    • I am sure that they will. But as recent events have demonstrated, technology can move faster than individuals’ and societies’ ability to understand and control that technology.

Key takeaway for insurers:

  1. Ignore voice at your own peril, as current and next-generation virtual assistants become more embedded in policyholders’ homes, cars, and lives.
  2. As connected homes mature and become more common, the opportunities for homeowners (and commercial property) insurers to increase the depth and breadth of their engagement with policyholders and provide services beyond loss indemnification will increase apace.

I have less to report on the autonomous car front. I walked the main automobile technology exhibit hall, stopping at most of the vehicle manufacturers’ exhibits, and several of the suppliers as well. Some of the exhibits were visionary and aspirational—along the lines of “imagine a world with mobility available to everyone.” Other exhibits had prototypes and concept cars. All in all, not a lot that represented real leaps forward.

However, I was impressed by NVIDIA’s DRIVE AutoPilot. This AI-enable processor will enable supervised Level 2+ solutions to go into production as early as next year in conjunction with two major automotive part suppliers Continental and ZF Source.

NVIDIA has positioned DRIVE AutoPilot as the solution to the worrisome performance shortfalls in a number of currently available ADAS systems that were demonstrated by a series of road tests conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) in 2018. (See my post, “Suddenly Autonomous Cars on the Road to Level 5 Are Hitting Speed Bumps at Level 2.”

Key takeaways for insurers:

  1. Better understanding of the risks and loss mitigation benefits of current and future ADAS solutions will provide a competitive advantage
  2. We are still a long way from Level 5 fully autonomous vehicles, so auto insurers have a bit more breathing room than they might have thought just a year ago.

Suddenly Autonomous Cars on the Road to Level 5 Are Hitting Speed Bumps at Level 2

Donald Light // Donald Light is a Director in Celent’s North America Property/Casualty Insurance Practice. His coverage areas include: technology and business strategy; transformative technologies such as digital, the Internet of Things, and driverless cars; core systems; and insurance technology M&A due diligence. His recent consulting work includes: developing a strategic IT plan for a specialty insurer, core system vendor selection support; a build vs. buy analysis for core systems; and several due diligence assignments. Light is widely quoted in the press and media, including The Wall Street Journal, The Economist, NBC and CBS Evening News, CNBC, National Public Radio. He is a frequent presenter at industry conferences including those sponsored by ACORD, PCI, and IASA.

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