Risky Business: Waymo Inks Landmark Autonomous Insurance Deal

By: Bridget Clerkin January 8, 2018
Waymo recently announced the first major partnership between an autonomous carmaker and an insurer to indemnify its riders in its planned taxi program.
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If you can’t wait to take a spin in a driver-free car, Waymo’s got you covered. Literally.

The self-driving giant, a division of Google, is preparing to launch its first autonomous taxi service in Phoenix later this year, but before the venture kicks off, the company is dotting all the i’s in its insurance policy.

Riders in the new-age vehicles will benefit from an equally futuristic car insurance plan, thanks to a partnership Waymo inked with insurance company Trov late last year. Specifically, the policy covers any lost and damaged property or medical costs related to accidents incurred during the driverless jaunts—on Waymo’s behalf.

The landmark agreement is the first major measure of how the insurance industry will deal with the tricky matter of self-driving vehicles. Without humans behind the wheel, the question of liability becomes murky. And thanks to the technology, the idea of auto insurance could become antiquated altogether as autonomous cars are expected to all but eliminate roadway accidents—and are estimated to erode as much as $160 billion annually from the premiums collected by insurance companies in the process.

Perhaps fittingly, the firm taking the first crack at underwriting the new world of perma-passengerhood is a start-up, with Waymo representing Trov’s first corporate client. Still, the budding insurance company seems well-matched for the burgeoning technology. On its website, Trov boasts of its own industry-disrupting ideas, including on-demand insurance provided entirely through an app.

While Trov has yet to divulge the full details of how its Waymo coverage will work, both companies have made clear that the plan will be practically invisible to passengers, with the only evidence of insurance appearing at the end of the trip, as the cost of the policy will simply be part of the overall fare.

Cutting-edge technology may be a strange fit for the world of risk aversion, but it seems Waymo is hedging its bets to ensure autonomous passengers feel they’re in safe hands—even when there are no hands on the wheel.  

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