Allstate Insurance Company announced Tuesday that it would be working with the Intelligent Systems Laboratory at Stanford University to better understand the implications of connected cars and autonomous vehicles. According to a press release, the three-year research project will focus on “machine learning, artificial intelligence and highly autonomous vehicle systems.”

Founded in 1931, Allstate is one of the largest personal insurers in the US. The firm’s involvement in the autonomous space is a strategic move, as advances in autonomous vehicles and their related technologies will have a big impact on the insurance market.

“We are proactively embracing and participating in the evolving landscape around personal transportation through our work with world-class institutions at the forefront of this automotive revolution,” Allstate’s senior vice president of product innovation, Howard Hayes, said in the release. “We aim to learn about, and contribute to the algorithm research, software platforms and the datasets, tools and standards related to connected and autonomous vehicles.”

SEE: Top 10 developments of 2016 in autonomous vehicles

According to the release, Allstate sees the research project as “an opportunity to help shape the future of the insurance industry.” On the Stanford side of the equation, professor Mykel Kochenderfer will act as principal investigator for the project throughout its duration. Allstate’s director of innovation and research, Sunil Chintakindi, will take the lead on Allstate’s side

“We see an autonomous vehicle future more as a matter of when, not if, and we want to be prepared to best serve our customers no matter who or what is behind the wheel,” Chintakindi said in the release. “Allstate has long supported auto highway and safety reforms like seat belts, air bags and teen driver education. This is the logical next step as driverless technology continues to evolve.”

How insurance will work for autonomous vehicles is one of the biggest unanswered questions in the space. The promise of fewer accidents has added some interesting tasks to the work of actuaries, who must account for changes in premiums that could come with this new technology. And, while some have posited that autonomous vehicle tech may turn the insurance industry on its head, others think that won’t be the case at all.

No matter what direction the technology moves the auto industry in, it’s undoubtable that autonomous vehicles will impact insurance providers in a major way. However, the fact that providers like Allstate are taking an interest in the space shows that the infrastructure around automobiles is finally starting to catch up with the driving technology itself.

This follows news that the US Department of Transportation (DOT) unveiled the world’s first autonomous vehicle policy in September, further building out the foundation for a driverless future in the US.

The 3 big takeaways for TechRepublic readers

  1. Allstate is partnering with Stanford on a three-year research project looking at connected cars and autonomous vehicles.
  2. Allstate sees driverless technology as the next step in the automotive industry, and it is trying to stay ahead of the advances in the market.
  3. Autonomous vehicles will impact insurance providers in a major way, promising more efficient driving patterns and fewer accidents.