A self-driving car start-up that runs a taxi service in one of the largest retirement communities in Florida, as well as its hometown of San Diego, has partnered up with Toronto-based Intact Financial following a $3 million investment from the insurer.
Voyage operates autonomous vehicles in The Villages, which has a population of 125,000, and uses sensors that help its cars navigate the privately-owned roads in the community by creating a 3D map that identifies other cars, cyclists, and pedestrians, and picks up residents on demand, reported Bloomberg. With Intact’s backing, each driverless car will now send information to the insurer’s machine learning division, which will assess the data and form risk profiles on the vehicle’s immediate environment to structure, underwrite, and price insurance offerings, with higher costs for riskier situations and vice versa.
Intact has already made an investment into pay-per-mile auto insurance company Metromile and has partnered with Uber as it keeps a close eye on the autonomous driving space.
“We do know that there’s going to be more and more vehicles with automated features on the roads in the next few years, all the way to the evolution of Level 5 vehicles,” said Karim Hirji, senior vice president of Intact Ventures, the strategic venture arm of Intact. “When we’re taking a look at the future of insurance and how to best protect consumers, we wanted to make sure that we could find a partner in the AV space that was equally committed to focusing on safety and trying to determine how the insurance product should also evolve alongside these automated features in cars coming on the roads.”
Voyage impressed the Canadian insurer, in part because of its team’s commitment to safety and data, and Intact wanted the opportunity to enter into a partnership that wasn’t just about financial capital, but also could put the company’s expertise to work to determine how data could be used in terms of pricing and developing new products.
“This was an opportunity in the near term to actually gets cars on the road and start learning from the data right away, as opposed to something theoretical that could be on the road in four or five years,” explained Hirji.
Companies working in the mobility field aren’t the only ones that Intact has partnered with through its 10 investments and $170 million in capital deployed so far.
“We’ve been very much focused on areas that potentially could disrupt the insurance industry in the future, learning from those companies and also offering our advice and expertise to those companies,” said Hirji.
AI and the impact of the technology has been another theme of focus, along with distribution and the sharing economy. At the moment, blockchain has also popped up on the insurer’s radar.
“Some of the things happening out there that we’re taking a look at, blockchain would definitely be one of them and what could the impact of blockchain be in terms of becoming more efficient and settling insurance contracts,” said Hirji. “There are some interesting things that reinsurers are doing in terms of settlement of contracts that we are keeping an eye on, and if there is applicability from a primary insurer perspective, we’ll definitely engage at that point.”