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Enabling Canadians to be covered ‘anytime, anywhere’

Technology that measures not just time and kilometres driven but also driving patterns can enable insurance policy solutions suitable for car-sharing models like ShiftRide.

What if more of Canada’s millions of registered automobiles, currently sitting idle about 95 per cent of the time, could simply be shared? Could car owners turn their underused vehicles into cash flow? And those who don’t own cars or are away from home – could they simply access an app, hop into a nearby vehicle and drive away?

These were the questions that ShiftRide founders Mohsen Mohsenpour, CEO; Nima Tahami, CDO; and Deepak Parpyani, CTO, asked themselves when they decided it was time to disrupt the car rental and ride-sharing industry. But there was one particularly formidable barrier: insurance. Traditional auto policies leave car owners unprotected in these circumstances.

The ShiftRide co-founders approached many insurance companies before designing a solution through an intrepid process of incremental risk analysis and technical innovation in partnership with Northbridge Insurance. The result? A policy that covers collision and comprehensive, liability and standard accident benefits when the car is in use by a ShiftRide driver; the car owner’s insurance is unaffected. Making all this possible is the Box, a device that plugs into each car to measure not just time and kilometres driven but driving patterns.

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“We had to go through multiple measures to make sure that cars are safe and inspected,” says Mr. Mohsenpour. “We also know how the cars are being driven; if there’s something wrong, we know about it before it happens. It’s about predicting when things can go wrong to stop it from happening.”

ShiftRide has been in operation for six months in Waterloo-Kitchener and is about to expand into Toronto, enabled by a new insurance paradigm that Mr. Mohsenpour would like to see expand far beyond auto coverage. “We should be able to get to models like beautiful smart cities where we have general insurance policies that cover everyone, so technology and people can work together seamlessly to make everyone’s lives better.”

It’s an audacious vision. And it is only one of the many drivers of change the industry is currently responding to, starting with consumer demand, says Doug Grant, a partner at Insurance-Canada.ca. “Consumers get different experiences from other industries – think Amazon, Google, travel – whether it’s mobile apps, ‘I want it now,’ or transparency.”

“InsurTech” companies such as Lemonade and Tr–ov in the U.S. and Zipsure.ca in Canada are striking examples of insurance innovation, but Mr. Grant predicts that the most significant changes will occur as the technology behind these startups is incorporated into more traditional models by industry incumbents. New and existing products are changing, using data analytics to design product parameters and pricing that is more granular than it has ever been, he notes.

Technology is also driving a proactive rather than reactive approach to risk management. “Weather monitoring continues to be enhanced – you can warn customers there’s a hail storm likely in their area in the next two hours so that they can move their car inside the garage,” he says. “There are similar examples in business or personal insurance, be it life and health or property and casualty.”

At the same time, startups are inspiring a new approach to product development, with more willingness to launch, test, refine and adapt products, as well as new resource deployment strategies, Mr. Grant reports. “Companies are much more attuned to working as a team within an organization to enable things to be done better. I’ve never before seen the interest in developing and matching people skills to things like customer engagement.”

In one possible future, Mr. Grant’s vision for this continued evolution aligns with that of Mr. Mohsenpour: Canadians will be covered by “anytime, anything, anywhere insurance – I don’t care where I am, I want to know I’m insured.”

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Advertising produced by Randall Anthony Communications. The Globe’s Editorial department was not involved in its creation.

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