A new smartphone app will reward good drivers with lower insurance rates
(This post originally appeared on The Washington Post)
It doesn’t matter how educated or wealthy you are–if you’re a lousy driver, you’re still a lousy driver. A start-up called Root debuted in the U.S. on Tuesday to prove just that–and its technology could significantly change how much insurance companies charge their customers.
Root plans to sell insurance entirely through a smartphone, and enable the best drivers to get “much, much better rates than is currently on the market, which we feel is the rate they deserve,” chief executive Alex Timm told the trade publication Carrier Management,
The app works like this. Customers use the Root app to scan their driver’s license and then wait for two weeks while the company gathers data, including their driving history and other demographic information. The app also turns the customer’s phone into a telematics device, gathering additional data about how the customer is driving by measuring driving speeds, acceleration and breaking patterns, changing lanes and other activities that could cause distracted driving. These behaviors all figure into the quote calculation.
The plan is to only insure the “good” (about 70 percent) drivers and direct the rest (that’s probably me, by the way) to other options and carriers. And no, this is not considered to be discriminatory–all carriers typically have target markets and underwriting guidelines, the company says.
“The majority of the market is still based on traditional underwriting variables–credit score, age, gender, year/make/model of vehicle, marital status. Some still have occupation, some ask your level of education…They will use these reports and that information in order to try to predict whether you will get into an auto accident,” Timm told Carrier Management. “It is not very granular.”
The 20-person company has raised about $7 million so far and has already received regulatory approval in Ohio. Plans are in the works to quickly expand nationwide in 2017.