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Usage-Based Insurance (UBI)


Usage-Based Insurance (UBI) is a recent innovation by auto insurers that more closely aligns driving behaviors with premium rates for auto insurance. Mileage and driving behaviors are tracked using odometer readings or in-vehicle telecommunication devices (telematics) that are usually self-installed into a special vehicle port or already integrated in original equipment installed by car manufactures. The basic idea of telematics auto insurance is that a driver's behavior is monitored directly while the person drives.

These telematics devices measure a number of elements of interest to underwriters: miles driven; time of day; where the vehicle is driven (GPS); rapid acceleration; hard braking; hard cornering; and air bag deployment. The level of data collected generally reflects the telematics technology employed and the policyholders’ willingness to share personal data. The insurance company then assesses the data and charges insurance premiums accordingly. For example, a driver who drives long distance at high speed will be charged a higher rate than a driver who drives short distances at slower speeds. With UBI, premiums are collected using a variety of methods, including utilizing the gas pump, debit accounts, direct billing and smart card systems.

Advantages

UBI programs offer many advantages to insurers, consumers and society. Linking insurance premiums more closely to actual individual vehicle or fleet performance allows insurers to more accurately price premiums. This increases affordability for lower-risk drivers, many of whom are also lower-income drivers. It also gives consumers the ability to control their premium costs by incenting them to reduce miles driven and adopt safer driving habits. Fewer miles and safer driving also aid in reducing accidents, congestion, and vehicle emissions, which benefits society.

The use of telematics helps insurers more accurately estimate accident damages and reduce fraud by enabling them to analyze the driving data (such as hard braking, speed, and time) during an accident. This additional data can also be used by insurers to refine or differentiate UBI products. Additionally, the ancillary safety benefits offered in conjunction with many telematics-based UBI programs also help to lower accident and vehicle theft related costs by improving accident response time, allowing for stolen vehicles to be tracked and recovered, and monitoring driver safety. Telematics also allow fleets to determine the most efficient routes, saving them costs related to personnel, gas, and maintenance.

Future

Telematics-based UBI growth is being propelled by technology advances, which continue to substantially improve the cost, convenience, and effectiveness of using telematics devices. It is through the use of telematics that insurers are able to collect driving data that better enable them to more closely link a driver’s individual risk with premium. Through UBI programs, insurers are able to differentiate products, gain competitive advantage, and attract low-risk policyholders. Recognition of the societal benefits and growing consumer acceptance of personal data collection will only serve to further increase demand for telematics-based UBI products in the future.

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