Gianpiero Cognoli Field reporter

Sharing the Way from Aix to Zagreb: Episode 2

Seven Countries in Seven Days: From Milan to Innsbruck Future of insurance
Dec 10, 2015

This is the second of a three-part report on a week-long trip across seven countries with BlaBlaCar and other sharing platforms, to see how trust and insurance affect the sharing economy.

DAY 3: SWITZERLAND - LUGANO (Airbnb, BlaBlaCar, Uber)

Nothing like an UberBlack (car and coffee) to start the day.

Except it took me almost twenty minutes to book a car, as the app offered the decidedly un-Uber phrase “Sorry, no cars available.” several times before a shiny black Mercedes pulled up.

Lino, my driver, started discussing insurance with me of his own accord, which played right into my hands (evil laugh) as I kept asking questions about coverage and safety of services such as Uber. In the end, our most interesting discussion revolved around Uber’s controversial presence around the world (the regular UberX service was recently kicked out of Milan thanks to Italy’s vocal, if not violent, taxi lobby) and how this has led to a serious lack of cars in Milan. Which led me to

Aha Moment #4: You can’t insure availability.

Or can you? I for one would look forward to insurance coverage that would protect me in case of NOT being able to access a shared service (i.e. for missed appointments, etc.) Perhaps a monthly fee that would offer me some kind of charge-back or credit in case I’m NOT able to find a car in time. Wishful thinking? Probably. Impossible? Hmmm.

After lunch I set out for Switzerland with BlaBlaCar, Luca and Patrick, including a couple of unexpected stops: 1. to drop Patrick off far from the highway and 2. to drop me off at my Airbnb in Lugano. This wasn’t exactly part of the BlaBlaCar ride-share and added several kilometers to our trip, and to Luca’s budget.

Aha Moment #5: User tracking and flexibility will be key when insuring the trust economy.

Since 2008, usage-based insurance (pay-as-you-drive and pay-how-you-drive) formulas seem to be working out for auto insurers willing to tailor coverage to customer behavior and, in some cases, are leading to lower premiums. The same principle could be applied to ride-sharing, with some surprising additional benefits.

Grégoire Mouton, Business Development Manager at BlaBlaCar, says the ride-sharing company is considering the positive effects of their service on member behavior - for their own insurance policies. Greg (how I like to call him) proffers that “when you’re ride-sharing you’re driving better because you’re thinking of the people you have with you in the car”. Thus, accelerator, brakes and steering are all used more smoothly, leading to smoother driving, that is ecologically sound, and more importantly, safer.

This should have a positive effect on a members’ driving record, and therefore on their insurance premiums. And it creates a unique case where trust economy services and the insurance industry could eventually work together to encourage positive change in user behavior that benefits everyone, rather than just using positive behavior to offer value only to one user (as in usage-based insurance).


Just past the halfway mark of my trip, things began to really unravel. I wanted to try popular platform so I had reached out to a dozen or so people in Liechtenstein (Yes, Liechtenstein. How did you think I was going to do seven countries in seven days?).

I received a whopping total of zero responses.

Nothing. Nichts. (the official language of Liechtenstein is German)

So I found myself on my way with nowhere to sleep. I really didn’t want to stay a night in a hotel for the equivalent of the GDP of a small country so I tried Airbnb: nothing. Wimdu: nothing. Homeaway: nothing. Housetrip: noth… I think you know where this is going.

I’m really good at random (usually useless) internet searches, which brought me to Never heard of it? Me neither. But it got me a very gracious share in Triesenberg, right next to Vaduz, the capital. What else can I say about a country like Liechtenstein?

Total population: 36,000.


The challenge was on. Not only was I stuck up a Liechtensteiner mountain, I had no ride the following day to Austria and was almost 1000 km from Zagreb, with less than two days to go.

Then I saw it.

The “Go anywhere” feature on the BlaBlaCar iOS app.

This allows you to input a departure city and click a “Go anywhere” button to see what BlaBlaCar rides are available in your area, and where they’re headed. I already knew there weren’t any rides to Vienna or Graz or any of the other Austrian cities from my original itinerary. But there it was: Feldkirch-Innsbruck, leaving at 14:45.

In Feldkirch, a small town in Austria just across the border from Liechtenstein, I met Maria, Katharina and Jasper, my friendly BlaBlaCar companions to Innsbruck. I’d then figure out my way down to Ljubljana and Zagreb the next day, as I was a bit tired of acting like a stressed-out travel assistant for myself.

Aha Moment #6: Aggregated trust is the next big thing, possibly leading to aggregated sharing services and, ultimately, aggregated insurance.

After having cycled through so many users of so many trust economy platforms in such a short time, it dawned on me: what if everyone had their own personal trust profile on a single platform, and then had their own insurance for all sharing economy services based on that level of cross-platform trust?

It turns out I wasn’t alone. Once I got back from my trip I discovered a gentleman named Frédéric Mazzella had already started this exact conversation on a platform for aggregated trust and how it could impact the future of our economies. He’d even given it a name, the name of a superhero, “a superhero we can all choose to be” if we want to build trust in our communities online and offline: “Trustman”.

Ok, maybe the name needs a little work. But aggregated trust and, possibly, aggregated insurance, are set to be the future, as sharing services expand and create the need for trust on both the demand and supply side.

Oh yeah, did I mention what I found out Mr. Mazzella does for a living (once I got back.)? He’s one of the original founders of BlaBlaCar.