The so-called ‘sharing economy’ has benefited numerous consumers through the value it has added to their lives. Companies such as Uber, Airbnb and Lyft, to name just a few, have taken advantage of the digital technologies humans have developed over the years. However, consumers are not the only benefactors of the sharing economy, the insurance industry has developed products and services specifically catered to its unique characteristics, most notably in the ride-sharing sector, where insurance providers have taken advantage of liability concerns occurring in such ‘sharing’ activities (Traum, Vol. 14:511).
One of the first products developed, the “Metronome”, came from a collaboration between Uber and MetroMile. The device tracks the vehicle of a Transport Network Company (TNC) driver, and is embedded in the Uber application (Traum, Vol. 14:511). It only turns on and activates the required insurance plan when drivers are engaged in TNC services. When the driver is not carrying a passenger, or hasn’t accepted a ride, any liabilities arising from an accident are covered by his own insurance. This product considers both the professional and personal roles of Uber drivers. In a similar fashion, a new plan from Farmers Insurance, on offer since May 2015, supplements a TNC driver’s personal plan with a premium of eight percent (Traum, Vol. 14:511). Many insurances providers have begun to offer similar services to the ride-sharing industry.
Furthermore, the use of such digital technologies has expanded to mainstream customers’ insurance plans. Some companies have developed a chip to be installed on the vehicle during production. Similarly to the Metronome, this device tracks if a vehicle is in use and offers full coverage, to the extent of the customer’s plan, in the case of an incident. However, when the vehicle is parked and the engine is off, the insurance company provides a more limited plan. This enables insurance firms to offer their customer with a more suited, and personalised service.
In the case of Airbnb and other home-sharing services, the lack of legislative development with regards to the coverages of issues common to such activities (Traum, Vol. 14:511). However, insurance providers are aware of the risks that may arise but have yet to adapt and respond to liability issues specific to the home-sharing industry. Together with national governments and sharing economy companies, insurance providers have to strive towards addressing consumer needs; such as protection issues. Furthermore, innovations in this industry can be translated to insurance plans for the mainstream customer, taking the advantage of newly available digital technologies.
Traum, Vol. 14:511. Sharing Risk in the Sharing Economy: Insurance Regulation in the Age of Uber. Cardozo Pub. Law, Policy & Ethics J.