Large-scale autonomous vehicle adoption will be a reality in two to three years.

2020 looks set to be the breakthrough year for China's Ministry of Industry & Information Technology's (MIIT) 'Plan for Development of Innovative Online Vehicles' (AV Plan).

The AV Plan sets out a number of ambitious goals to develop China's Autonomous Vehicle industry, but in particular it is the goal – rapidly being implemented and reaching critical mass in certain locations in 2020 – of 'improved intelligent road infrastructure (IRI)' which is catching the attention of insurers.

Although elements of China's domestic AV programme and technology lag some of those currently being developed in the United States, IRI is a 'game-changer' in that it allows AVs with far simpler on-board IT hardware and software to navigate 'messy' city streets safely and accurately.

Unlike their insurer peers in the West, who may have a 10-20 year outlook on the impact of AVs on the motor insurance sector, IRI means that Chinese motor insurers are now having to plan for large-scale AV adoption in the coming two to three years, with all the regulatory and commercial issues that this entails – drastically reduced premiums, reduced claims frequency and value, hastening of a 'no-liability' regulatory framework etc...