The Key to the Future of Mobility

Telematics can help solve some of the insurance industry's oldest problems, but, first, insurers must win the client's trust.


For the past few decades, mobility innovation has trended in one direction: empowering the individual consumer. Google Maps and GPS have made navigation simple and paper maps obsolete, while rideshare apps offer options that traditional taxi services could not. Autonomous vehicles aren’t yet commonplace on the street, but experiments have logged millions of crashless miles. We’re living through the greatest change in general mobility since the invention of the jet engine. 

Insurance has a traditionalist reputation; insurers often reassure customers by advertising that they’ve been in business for several decades or even for whole centuries. The industry’s emphasis on past practice and proven traditions is admirable and necessary. But so is innovation, and we see insurers from every corner of the globe excited to build smart new products and programs based on new technologies. 

Telematics, the practice of analyzing mobility data for special insights, can help solve some of insurance’s oldest problems. Conventional actuarial models struggled to differentiate between individuals and types. If twin brothers live at the same address, work jobs with comparable salaries and share the same red sports car, they’re going to look equally high-risk to an insurer. One brother may be a thrill-happy daredevil, while the other shuns speeding and is conscientious about his turn signals, but the insurance company has few ways to recognize this. The responsible brother and the irresponsible one will pay the same fees despite their wildly different risk profiles. Telematics can make a huge difference here – it personalizes an insurance policy to each driver, providing the most equitable way to price premiums possible.

This is good for drivers, because it encourages good driving, and for insurers, because they’re much better able to predict costly car crashes. 

See also: How Tactile Sensors Can Help in Auto

The uses for telematics in insurance are obvious, and dozens of companies have partnered with telematics providers or founded in-house telematics operations. The customer’s phone is the central infrastructure element for telematics, but much remains to be built.

First, there’s the matter of what you might call social or trust infrastructure: Although most of us transmit huge amounts of data to Apple, Google and Facebook every day, potential telematics customers need to know that they are not being spied on. Explaining why telematics doesn’t compromise privacy is essential.

Second, telematics needs to be as simple and unobtrusive as possible. If a driver must open an app every time they step into a car, that’s an issue.

Finally, customers must be able to easily track the benefits of their participation. If, for example, a customer learns that their adherence to speed limits has earned them a 10% reduction in their premium, they’ll feel persuaded they’ve made the right choice. 

The insurance industry is evolving, but it doesn’t do it as noisily or quickly as the tech, automotive or mobility industries. We can see the changes happening, and the infrastructure necessary for the transformation grows firmer every day. As the insurance market becomes ever more competitive, telematics and related innovations offer the prospect of a more efficient industry that works better for everyone, giving insurance consumers better choice, service and prices.

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