When “Car and Driver” magazine debuted more than 60 years ago (originally titled Sports Cars Illustrated), nobody could have envisioned the approaching changes that would transform life as we knew it – including all things automotive and consumer. Today, the expression “car and driver” suggests a completely different meaning as automobiles are becoming “driven” by software and technology and their owners are becoming passengers – and increasingly we are riding in vehicles we don’t even own but rather share or rent.
But while we await our future, current innovations in vehicle and consumer technologies have already emerged to create a transition period full of complex challenges and issues accompanied by potentially significant opportunities for all participants. While much attention is being paid to the emergence of telematics and the connected car, and seemingly endless amounts of investment capital are flowing to the many innovative and promising startups sprouting in this fertile global environment, something even more consequential is also beginning to evolve. Auto insurers and auto makers – once basically adversaries – are beginning to cooperate around many of the related opportunities.
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These two industries, which serve and share a common customer base, have traditionally been wary of one another because they had so many conflicting interests. Carriers insure the people who drive the cars that OEMs make, and, when accidents inevitably occur, liability is frequently brought into question to protect the interests of one from the other. In addition, franchised new car dealers, upon whose success OEMs depend for sales and vehicle distribution, earn significant revenues from selling a variety of related products and services – including warranties and insurance, another area of potential conflict. Finally, when insured vehicles end up in collision repair shops as a result of accidents (which happens more than 20 million times a year), insurance carriers do their best to manage repair costs by encouraging these shops to find and use less expensive parts, which costs OEMs and their franchised new car dealers significant parts sales revenues. And, at a higher level, insurers and OEMs value and fiercely protect their customer relationships and have no interest in sharing them with others.
However, these dynamics are quickly changing as new mobile technologies are rapidly transforming consumer behavior and expectations and as new connected car and automated driver assist technologies begin to present significant new challenges as well as exciting opportunities to both auto insurers and OEMs. It is far from a given that today’s auto market share leaders will enjoy similar shares of future autonomous vehicle sales, and it is equally uncertain as to by whom and how these vehicles will be insured.
Tesla is positioning itself to do both. And so the ancient proverb that “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” seems to apply very well here. Evidence of insurer/OEM partnerships, both direct and indirect, is plentiful and growing daily.
Insurer/OEM connected car partnerships date back to as early as 2012 and include State Farm/Ford, Progressive/GM OnStar, Allstate/GM OnStar and Nissan/Liberty Mutual. In 2015, Ford conducted a “Data Driven Insurance” pilot program that provided participating drivers with their driver history for use in obtaining auto insurance. In 2017, GM OnStar began offering its subscribers 10% discounts on auto insurance from participating carriers including National General, 21st Century, Liberty Mutual, State Farm and Plymouth Rock.
And data and analytics information providers Verisk and LexisNexis Risk Solutions, which collect data and analytics solutions for use by the insurance industry, have both recently launched telematics data exchanges with OEM participants including GM and Mitsubishi. Consenting connected-car owners have the option to contribute their driving data and seamlessly take advantage of insurers’ usage-based insurance (UBI) programs designed to reward them for how they drive.
Other innovative telematics data models include BMW CarData, which allows owners to share customized data with pre-approved third-parties such as insurers, auto repair shops and other automotive service providers. Drivers can obtain custom insurance coverage based on their exact number of miles driven while repair shops could automatically order parts in advance of service appointments.
For carriers, existing data pools and analytics tools will become less useful than real-time data streaming from connected cars coupled with increased proficiency in predictive modeling and machine learning. OEM/insurer partnerships can enable both parties to share the costs and co-develop big data mining technologies and advanced analytics methodologies to benefit their respective businesses. Insurers can improve underwriting and claims processes while OEMs can improve vehicle safety, design and performance.
Data provided by connected-car devices could be used to initiate claims processing, order damaged parts, triage required collision repair and manage other third-party services (e.g. towing, rental, appraisal) and record accident dynamics as well as occupant placement. OEM/insurer partnerships sharing this data could lead to better claims service and satisfaction and more reliable injury claim evaluation. OEMs could use this data to improve vehicle and occupant safety and could ensure that repairs are performed at properly certified collision repairers and that appropriate parts are used in the repair.
OEMs and insurers can partner to offer customers innovative customer experiences, becoming primary points of contact for risk prevention and new hybrid insurance products as well as dealer parts, service and sales opportunities. New revenue sources for both parties could include Intelligent GPS for theft recovery, real-time notifications of traffic and other travel inconveniences, intelligent parking, location-based services, safety and remote maintenance services. Cost duplication from currently overlapping services such as roadside assistance and towing could be eliminated by single-sourcing such services.
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To be sure, other telematics data business models have emerged that could threaten OEM/insurer partnerships. In June 2017, BMW and IBM announced the integration of the BMW CarData network with an IBM cloud computing platform that could help as many as 8.5 million German drivers who grant permission to diagnose and repair problems save on car insurance, and take advantage of other third-party services. IBM can also collect data from other OEMs over time, and BMW plans to expand the program to other markets. And technology companies, including Automatics Labs and Otonomo, are seeking consumer consent to sell data through their exchange platforms.
While we await the day that self-driving vehicles dominate our roadways – which will no doubt make many of these driver data initiatives basically irrelevant – we have the most pragmatic of all reasons why OEM/insurer partnerships make sense. Participants can mitigate their risk and reduce their investments in these costly but still relatively short-term opportunities as they position their companies for the as-yet-undefined future of transportation and insurance.