Smartphone telematics may be an answer to insurers' underwriting woes

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Expanding telematics to the masses via smartphones can be the answer to insurers’ mounting underwriting losses while supporting efforts by carriers to price risk more accurately, according to a new consumer study from Cambridge Mobile Telematics.

The November report from the company, which provides turnkey usage-based insurance products for insurers, finds that as consumers continue to drive more, car owners actually prefer companies to determine premiums based on driver behavior, rather than more traditional metrics. Of the 718 drivers surveyed, 73% agreed with this sentiment. By contrast, only four percent view gender, age, marital status and credit score as the most effective tools to price risk.

“By combining newer technologies rooted in mobile telematics, machine learning, and behavioral modeling with traditional factors like the credit score, auto insurers can set more accurate rates, while also satisfying their customers’ desire for understandable rates based on driving quality,” the report says.

Only 18% of drivers surveyed said insurance providers clearly explain unexpected increases in coverage rates, according to the study. Detailed driver reports enable carriers to be more transparent about pricing decisions and avoid any surprises on the policyholder end.

The greatest challenges for carriers in expanding telematics programs to all customers lie in marketing and data privacy concerns, CMT says. While 60% of drivers are familiar with the platforms, only 22% have ever been offered one.

On the privacy front, about half of all respondents selected security concerns as main the reason holding them back from telematics-based insurance policies. To be sure, 85% of drivers expressed interest in signing up for a telematics programs, if offered assurances that private information won’t be misused, that the program succeeds in making them safer drivers (18%) and helps them monitor the driving habits of family members.

“Every consumer has concerns over protecting their personal information—it’s not unique to telematics,” CMT says. “However, once the user understands and sees how the data will be used, and the benefits, the concerns abate.”

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Telematics Usage-based insurance Underwriting Customer data Data transparency Claims Machine learning Cambridge Mobile Telematics