Tesla Launches Insurance Program in Texas

Everybody likes “safe driver” discounts on their car insurance, right? Now Tesla is taking the idea of a safe driver discount to the next level with a new insurance program for Tesla vehicle owners in Texas. The program calculates rates in real-time with its new “Safety Score” feature, which calculates the odds that a driver will be involved in an accident based on their driving behavior.

Tesla already has an insurance program in California, but rates are calculated using statistical evaluations. It seems to prefer to avoid even the appearance of using the metrics that other insurance companies use, such as age or gender, even when it doesn’t use the Safety Score as a metric.

The company had originally introduced its “Safety Score” to vet users of the Full Self-Driving software before they can actually use it. The Safety Score takes into account variables such as the frequency of front collision alerts, how often a driver “hard brakes,” the frequency of too-fast turns, the distance at which the driver typically drives behind other vehicles, and how often drivers take their hands off the wheel while using Autopilot or Full Self-Driving.

Like the activation of an interior camera mounted to the rearview mirror, this may be a response to incidents in which Tesla vehicle owners relied too much on Full Self-Driving or Autopilot. While Autopilot has recently demonstrated its ability to pull over to the side of the road if it senses that its driver is unconscious, neither program is truly ready for fully autonomous driving yet.

Despite repeated disclaimers, however, some drivers still have an inflated sense of the capacity of Tesla’s driver assist programs. “Elon Musk really knows what he’s doing,” said Californian (ex?)-Tesla owner Param Sharma told a local news station after he was caught riding in the back seat of his vehicle with Autopilot engaged. He claims that Autopilot once stopped his vehicle and avoided a wreck when the driver of the vehicle in front of him brake-checked him. It’s highly likely that he has a low Safety Score if he even still has a Tesla vehicle.

So far, Tesla is the only car insurance provider to use something like the Safety Score as the sole metric for calculating rates. Metrics for other insurance companies include occupation, age, gender, and sometimes credit score, though some states put limits on insurance companies’ ability to use some variables like credit score when calculating rates. Insurance companies also typically consider the model and age of the vehicle being insured – something that may not be as much of an issue for Tesla Insurance, since it’s assumed that the insurance customer owns a Tesla vehicle.

Tesla vehicles with Autopilot or Full Self-Driving activated have traditionally been able to send driving data back to Tesla’s supercomputers, which helps it train the AI behind these programs and has occasionally been used in crash scene investigations. Video footage from Tesla’s cameras have also been used to solve a wide variety of crime ranging from vandalism of Tesla vehicles to a series of shootings with a BB gun on Californian highways.

Elon Musk recently admitted that he pushed the development of Autopilot for safety reasons after crash in which a Tesla owner who fell asleep at the wheel killed a bicyclist. The “Safety Score”-based rates for Tesla Insurance are yet another way to encourage Tesla owners to be safe while driving its vehicles.