Maybe Uber Should Just Provide Its Own Insurance to Drivers

One of the criticisms of Uber and other ridesharing companies has been that part of the reason they've been so successful is that they've foisted the cost of insurance onto drivers. Insurance companies don't like it when you use your car as for-hire transportation unless you're insured to do so, and that insurance is considerably more expensive. As a result, many drivers have been driving with inadequate insurance, which puts both their passengers and themselves at risk. The "insurance gap"—the time between when a driver logs into Uber and when they actually are dispatched to a customer—has been especially problematic.

Part of the problem is that, thus far, there aren't really hybrid insurance policies that account for drivers who use their cars for-hire some times, and for personal use during other times. This is being worked out to some degree, at least in California and perhaps elsewhere, but it seems like a relatively simple solution would be for Uber to just offer the insurance product themselves. The market isn't supplying them with what they need, so maybe it's time to live up to their innovative name and fill the gap themselves.

Perhaps this is too much of a diversification of interests for Uber, but compared to all the other issues facing Uber right now, this seems like a relatively easy fix. They've already got many of the essential parts in place. For one, no one knows better than them how often their drivers are getting into accidents, so setting their premiums should be fairly simple. They also have direct access to the data on how many hours of the week their drivers are on the job, so the hybrid rate can be perfectly calibrated, individually, to the number of hours of regular driving versus for-hire driving. They can ensure that their drivers are always fully insured by having the premiums deducted from their drivers' paychecks. Last, and perhaps most importantly, Uber is so large that they probably have enough drivers to pool their risk safely.

Uber's too big at this point to be acting like the brash upstart. It's solved some serious problems for urban residents like myself, for which I'm extremely grateful, but it's time to grow up and start addressing some of the problems it's created as well. If Uber's really interested in having their employees and passengers fully covered and "In Good Hands™," as it were, and if the market isn't providing the coverage necessary to ensure that peace of mind, Uber should just go it on its own. With a recent valuation at $40 billion they can certainly afford it, and they could even earn a small additional profit in the process. Their public image is in tatters right now, and if this will help put them on better terms with their critics, it's probably worth the headache.