This week, Waymo announced a partnership with insurance startup Trov to cover passengers in Waymo's upcoming self-driving ride-hailing pilot. Unlike large national insurers, Trov is just 5 years old and has never worked with vehicles.
That may be to its advantage.
Trov, which operates in Australia and the United Kingdom, is an on-demand mobile insurance service, intended to cover lost, damaged or stolen personal items such as laptops or camera equipment. The partnership will cover passengers' lost or damaged items, ride interruptions and medical expenses, and Waymo will pay the premiums.
Some experts contend the advent of autonomous vehicles -- which are expected to significantly decrease traffic accidents -- will sound the death knell for traditional automotive insurers, or at least drastically shrink the industry. While there is still much to determine for self-driving liability and insurance, Waymo's partnership suggests an opportunity may be dawning for a new type of insurance industry.
Initially, consumers likely will be wary of riding in self-driving vehicles, and an additional layer of security may comfort people deciding to use robotaxis for regular commutes. When a lost phone can be replaced, or, more importantly, passengers won't get stuck with medical bills in the case of an accident, the perceived risk associated with using new technology may decrease.
Some companies offer such services for ride-hailing passengers on an individual basis. For instance, startup Sure charges a $1 premium per Uber or Lyft ride to cover up to $100,000 in injuries in case of an accident. While services such as this may seem like overkill, they could be a security blanket for new riders, especially if they don't have to foot the premium.
-- Katie Burke