Tesla CEO Elon Musk said yesterday during the Q4 2021 Earnings Call that the automaker is pushing California to adopt telematics-based insurance rates. Ricardo Lara, the State’s Insurance Commissioner, is advising Musk to ease off.
Telematics insurance adjusts the price of premiums based on usage. It usually can use plug-in devices or a mobile application to track driving behaviors and overall usage and can adjust a monthly insurance premium based on these behaviors. Tesla’s telematic’s system is available in four of the five states it offers its in-house insurance program: Texas, Illinois, Ohio, and Arizona. California is the lone state that refuses to adopt the system.
During yesterday’s Earnings Call, Musk said that Tesla is pushing hard for California to allow telematics for its insurance program.
“It should be clear, like we are pushing very hard for California to change the rules to allow informatics, which basically means that, you know, you’re as safe as you’re driving is measured,” Musk said. “So I think the current California rules are contrary to the best interest of the consumers in California and should be changed.”
CFO Zachary Kirkhorn added that telematics and informatics insurance programs have contributed to safer driving, at least in Texas. “We’ve been in this market now for about three months,” Kirkhorn said. “And what we see in the data is the frequency of collision by folks who are given a feedback loop on how they are driving is quite a bit lower than the frequency of collision otherwise.”
Musk broadened on his points. “We get direct feedback on whether driving is safe. And if they drive safe, their insurance cost is less, so they drive safer,” Musk added. “It encourages Tesla insurance with informatics, and real-time feedback encourages safer driving and rewards it monetarily.”
Telematics can encourage safer driving as more cautious behaviors while operating a vehicle, like traveling at a safe speed and maintaining plenty of distance to avoid occurrences of emergency braking, can lower monthly rates. However, there are disadvantages to the program, as it can be considered a breach of privacy. California’s Insurance Commissioner, Ricardo Lara, says Tesla should “push all [they] want,” but the State has no plans to adopt the system.
The Department of Insurance continues to uphold and implement the consumer protections set forth in voter-enacted Proposition 103 & since 2009 we have allowed vehicle data only to determine actual miles driven, and only in a way that protects the driver’s privacy. (2/2)
— Ricardo Lara (@ICRicardoLara) January 27, 2022
“Yesterday @elonmusk reportedly told investors he’s ‘pushing very hard’ to change the rules on telematics for California drivers. Push all you want, but we won’t bend on protecting consumer data, privacy, and fair rates,” Lara said in a tweet earlier today. Lara, who took office in 2018, states one of the main priorities as Commissioner is to ensure a fair insurance market while embracing new technology.
“Technology is touching every aspect of our lives. We need to embrace new technology to improve access, affordability, and privacy, while promoting creativity and allowing innovation to transform the industry,” the Commissioner is quoted as saying on California’s Insurance website.
Telematics dates back to 1978 but is used commonly, especially in commercial fleets to track containers or tractor-trailers. In insurance, the technology is relatively new and was first patented by Progressive Casualty Insurance Company in 1998. In 2010, the first worldwide family litigation was filed for the patent. While it encourages safe driving and has customizable programs that determine rates on either behavior or total usage, it could be considered invasive. It requires drivers to share information that is somewhat personal, including where a car is at a particular time. Additionally, it is costly to implement as it requires GPS or camera-based technology to monitor behaviors and determine rates.
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