Waymo preps for self-driving taxi service with rider insurance deal

A startup will protect passengers involved in crashes.

Natalie Behring / Reuters

Waymo faces a slew of challenges if it's going to get its autonomous taxi service up and running, not the least of which is insurance. Who's going to cover passengers when there's no human pilot to help determine who's responsible? Thankfully, someone has stepped up to the plate. Waymo has struck a deal with insurance tech startup Trov to protect passengers when the service goes live in Phoenix in 2018. Trov has adapted its on-demand insurance to be triggered by software instead of a human, giving you automatic coverage during your trip without having to pay extra or even acknowledge that the policy is taking effect.

While the exact details of the coverage aren't specified, it's fairly comprehensive. You'll get compensation for medical expenses if there's a crash, but there will also be payouts for trip interruptions and property loss. If your phone gets smashed in a collision, you probably won't have replace it with your own funds.

This is a gamble for both Trov and its insurance underwriter, Munich Re. There could be many headaches if there's an accident with few clear answers. But that's the point, really -- these companies want to experiment with insuring self-driving cars now so that they're ready when the technology hits the mainstream. If car ownership declines and many people simply hail a robotic ride whenever they need it, Waymo's insurance offering could quickly become the norm.