Sep 20, 2019 - Energy & Environment
Expert Voices

Automakers could use vehicle data to compete with auto insurers

Illustration of a car stuffed with 1s and 0s, some 1s and 0s are spilling out.

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Automakers are beginning to offer subscription packages that include insurance, typically via a third-party provider. Tesla has gone a step further, recently announcing it will offer its own policies, which may signal a larger shift in auto insurance.

Why it matters: The volume of vehicle behavioral data that connected vehicles will generate could be leveraged by automakers to edge into the insurance market, while enabling them to proactively protect drivers by recommending safer routes.

The big picture: Connected vehicles generate huge amounts of vehicle usage data. 

  • Real-time data is already becoming a new currency for insurers, impacting the way the $558 billion industry works.
  • But this change also creates opportunities for new insurance technology start ups and automakers to get into the insurance space.
  • Insurance tech companies raised $3 billion in investment in the first half of 2019, money that will likely advance in-house OEM insurance.

How it works: This influx of data creates a new era in insurance because, fundamentally, insurance extrapolates from historical data to create risk models.

  • Real-time data collection can accelerate the building of those risk models for emerging mobility technology, like AVs and electric scooters.
  • The breadth of data available also allows for more insightful risk modeling.

Between the lines: Tesla's move reinforces the idea that OEMs could begin providing their own insurance.

  • Yes, but: This could prove a challenge for companies long dedicated to "bending metal."

What we're watching: In addition to offering insurance, this influx of data could be leveraged by suppliers to protect users in new ways. 

  • Eventually, navigation guidance could recommend a route where accidents are less likely to occur during rush hour.
  • Leveraging traffic, weather, and other data can protect fleets, equipment, and especially people, which would reduce risk and lower insurance costs.

Ian Sweeney is the GM of Mobility at Trov, an insurance technology company.

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