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  • By John R. Quain

Annals of Micromobility: E-Scooter Insurance

E-scooters--it's all fun and games until you fall off and hurt yourself--or someone else.

Many people have opined about what happens to car insurance when the roads are full of autonomous vehicles (who'll need it?). However, few have talked about insurance issues facing us right now with e-scooters and shared e-bikes.

So what should you be aware of in terms of micromobility insurance?

I recently met with the CTO and co-founder of Voom Insurance, Ori Blumenthal, to discuss some of the issues. In general, for most of us when we get on a Lime or Bird, we're on our own. If you break an ulna, your own health insurance should cover it. But if you break someone else's ulna...then you're in trouble.

Even if you have car insurance, it usually omits scooters. Home owner's policies usually exclude motorized rentals. In short, you'll be personally on the hook if you have to pay for damages to anyone or anything else. (Even the National Association of Insurance Commissioners warns consumers about the problem.)

Voom wants to solve the issue by offering inexpensive, on-demand insurance for rental riders. It would only kick in when you kick on a scooter, so you'd only pay for what you use--and when you need it. It might also vary, depending on when, where, and how you ride.

"We want to incentivize people to use the bike path and use helmets and be safer riders,” explained Blumenthal.

The idea is to gather telemetry data about a rider's location and speed, for example, and use that to assess whether they're a high or low risk based on driving behavior. Poor weather and night riding would also be risk factors.

It's a model that hasn't caught on in the automotive space, but it seems better suited to micromobility situations. I might use e-scooters in the spring and fall and only on sunny days but never during the winter or on rainy days, so why pay for the whole year? (NB: You can get so-called umbrella insurance that will cover loses outside the home and e-scooter liabilities, but it can be expensive.)

Voom is based in Tel Aviv, where e-bikes and scooters have been in heavy use for some time. Unfortunately, even a cursory encounter with Tel Aviv traffic will demonstrate that some e-scooter users are some of the biggest dangers on the road. (E-bike riders don't seem to be as confused about the rules of the road.)

Blumenthal said Voom will offer such insurance later this year, essentially acting as an online agent. The cost should be a "fraction" of the hourly rental cost of an e-bike or e-scooter, he said.

The company already offers drone pilots insurance in the U.S., typically costing about $10 an hour. Considering how often I've crashed a drone, that may be a bargain.

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