Thursday, October 12, 2006

Voluntary Big Brotherism.....

Progressive Insurance, an auto insurer here in the US of A, is running a program where their customers can voluntarily install a device, called a TripSense in their car which plays the part of the well-known non-black airplane black box, but just in a vehicle.

The TripSense token hooks up to the OnBoard Diagnostics port (OBDII) (which is on every car manufactured for delivery in the US of A since 1996) and then periodically (perhaps once a year), the customer removes it from the car and hooks it (via USB) to their computer where an application processed the data and lets them review (but not modify, of course).

The device is available from Progressive under two different plans:

  • A plan for Minnesota residents where they can get a discount on their policy between 5% and 25% depending upon the data reported on their driving (the driver does get to look at the data and can choose to not report it, but gives up their discount if they don't send it in). They even have a discount calculator available so you can see what types of driving impact the discount (driving over 75 miles per hour one tenth of one percent of the time -- poof, there goes 5% of discount, 7.5 tenths of one percent (0.0075) of the time and poof there goes another 5% (in other words you now have a max of 15 percent discount). At least they do this using time, not distance, so you can drive like 200mph for a shorter time to cover the distance and still not loose the discount :-) ).
  • A plan for everyone else (who is a progressive customer, of course) that pays $50 per monitored vehicle per year and claims to disassociate the data from the vehicle info (and only use the vehicle info for study/analysis)

After looking at some of the sample reports, especially the report to the right which shows a lot of interesting data for each trip made with the vehicle and, in particular, the time spent above 75MPH while on the trip, I'm sure this isn't the right program for me.

However, my son, CJ, just obtained his driving permit and will one day (hopefully not too soon) be driving on his own and having a monitor for the vehicle may be useful. Davis Instruments makes what looks like the same device (without Progressive's branding, of course) called the CarChip and CarChip E/X (differing primarily on storage capability). These things are cool for a parent in that we log what the little brats... I mean wonderful children... have been doing with our vehicles while we weren't around.

From a privacy point of view, I'm OK with all this as long as it is not mandatory and people (including my son) know about it when they get in the car. I think that insurance companies may figure out a way to use it anyway, though (the users who won't use it are automatically treated as higher risk).

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Pamela said...

Ah, but how do you separate your son's evil driving habits from your own?

I sense impending family arguments about who caused what event on the family car log :)

Conor P. Cahill said...

Ahh.. In my house, I'm the dictator... so whatever I say happened really happened.(yeah, I keep believing that to be the case :-)).