Google is moving deeper into the insurance industries and it may be looking beyond helping shoppers settle on policies. It may be preparing to underwrite policies for its own vehicles.
After two years of offering policy comparison services in the UK, Google has expanded into the U.S. California is the first state in which Google's insurance comparison tool is being offered, but it is licensed to operate in more than half of the U.S.
Google has brought in a number of insurance agencies, which include MetLife and Mercury Insurance among others. However, big names, such as Progressive and Geico, haven't signed on with Google Compare Auto Insurance Services Inc.
Forrester Research analyst Ellen Carney has been keeping tabs on Google as it lumbers loudly around the insurance business. She noted that Google is putting itself in a great position to learn about the insurance business, which could see the search engine company someday underwriting policies for its self-driving cars.
In January, Carney wrote in a blog post, Google's insurance comparison division was being run by people who didn't appear to have much of a background in the industry. She suggested that Google may have been considering a purchase of Coverhound, a startup that partners with more insurance companies than Google, but the company dismissed such talk recently.
While the Coverhound theory appears to have been off, Carney stated that she believes Google will link some element of insurance to its driverless cars.
"If you think about what's going on with self-driving cars in the future, Google is really going to have to understand how insurance companies price risk because the whole model is going to change," Carney is quoted as saying.
Google may be versing itself in the insurance business to learn how it can better serve its driverless cars, but right now the search engine company is sticking to the script. It says it is looking to help consumers compare more than two car insurance policies with one tool, offering "apples-to-apples" comparisons.
"As Google Compare for car insurance rolls out to more states, we'll also be introducing ratings and reviews, as well as local agent support for providers with agent networks," states Google in the post announcing the U.S. version of the tool. "Participation in Google Compare is based on a flexible cost-per-acquisition (CPA) model, but payment isn't a factor in ranking or eligibility."