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Metered Auto Insurance

By bmetzler in News
Thu Apr 27, 2000 at 02:05:55 PM EST
Tags: Freedom (all tags)
Freedom

In the future, with the use of Global Positioning System technology, your driving habits may be tracking and your insurance will be billed accordingly. Startribune.com has the gory details.


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According to the article, Progressive Insurance is testing such a system now in Texas. Since the program began 18 months ago, 1,100 drivers have signed up for it. Participants receive a GPS receiver, cell-phone modem and a micro processor with a small amount of computer memory. This microprocessor uses the GPS receiver to record data every 6 minutes while the car is driven. Then, once a month, the central computer dials the cell-phone modem and downloads the records of the months travel. A bill based on distance and time of travel is then calculated.

The system can also do more normal services. For instance, it can be used to unlock doors, and monitor for dead batteries. It can also provide GPS navigation, and emergency assistance. Progressive Insurance has also donated money to the Minneapolis Police Department to be used in their Bait Vehicle program.

Naturally, nothing good comes without concerns. In return for the lower insurance rates you give up your privacy. Not only does the company know pretty much exactly where you were at any time, but they also know how fast you were driving. For some people, that isn't a problem. But for other people, that is a huge problem. For me, If I had the chance to save a few bucks on my insurance premiums by giving the insurance company my driving records, I wouldn't think twice about it. I think that if you had the choice of traditional premiums, or metered premiums, that everyone would be happy.

However, there is one more issue. What if it were made law that every car be equiped with such a system, and records be mandatory for every insurance policy? I can see how the government would like this. It would be a great asset to reducing crime. But it would also allow a big possibility for abuse. But then again, how is this different then the government knowing how much is in your bank account now?

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Metered Auto Insurance | 24 comments (24 topical, editorial, 0 hidden)
Important Issue... (1.00 / 1) (#6)
by DemiGodez on Thu Apr 27, 2000 at 10:57:10 AM EST

DemiGodez voted 1 on this story.

Important Issue

I actually think this is a good ide... (none / 0) (#1)
by rusty on Thu Apr 27, 2000 at 11:39:36 AM EST

rusty voted 1 on this story.

I actually think this is a good idea. I only drive, average, maybe 8 miles a day. Yet you would cry if you know the insurance premiums I pay (no, you really would cry. DC has got to be the most expensive place on Earth to insure a vehicle). The only problem with it is that it's Progressive. I had Progressive for a while, and they were Pure Evil. There was nothing good about that company at all, as far as I could tell. Avoid them like the plague.

____
Not the real rusty

Re: I actually think this is a good ide... (5.00 / 1) (#17)
by Anonymous Hero on Thu Apr 27, 2000 at 07:19:12 PM EST

But they could track how far you travel without actually tracking your location. I wouldn't mind them reading my odometer, but GPS tracking is too much.

[ Parent ]
Why GPS data (none / 0) (#18)
by zotz on Thu Apr 27, 2000 at 07:46:28 PM EST

I am not for this in any way. I do not like the steady erosion of privacy.

Given that, I think they would want GPS data because the premiums would be based not only on how far you drive, but what time of day, how fast, what areas, etc.

Do you drive on reads where lots of accidents happen? Do you park in areas where car thefts are high? Do you drive on twisty mountain roads? Do you drive when it is raining or foggy?

Flat rate insurance for me please.


zotz forever! ~~~the raggeded~~~

bslug.org
[ Parent ]

Progressive (none / 0) (#20)
by mattc on Thu Apr 27, 2000 at 08:28:54 PM EST

I agree with you about Progressive -- man, what a rip off! I've since switched to a local insurance agent and am saving a lot of money and have better coverage (although it is still expensive).

As the other poster suggested, using the odometer reading instead of a GPS would be a lot better and I'd definitely support that system.

As far as tracking your speed, location, and what time of day you drive -- these seem like total invasions of privacy to me, and probably should be illegal. Another thing that has always annoyed me is sexual discrimination. Different rates based on age -- ok that's reasonable -- different rates on gender is totally wrong. What next; higher rates for black and hispanic drivers?

[ Parent ]

These things always have potential ... (none / 0) (#7)
by gruel on Thu Apr 27, 2000 at 11:59:22 AM EST

gruel voted 1 on this story.

These things always have potential for abuse( just read Lessig's Code. That's why it is important for people to stay informed about them.

Insurance companies are evil, altho... (3.50 / 2) (#3)
by Neolith on Thu Apr 27, 2000 at 12:02:25 PM EST

Neolith voted 1 on this story.

Insurance companies are evil, although in this day and age, a necessary one. In my experience, nothing good happens when an insurance agent finds something out about your driving. Ticket? Raise his rates. Minor fenderbender? Raise his rates. Got divorced? Raise his rates. I can see perhaps people going for this *IF* they don't do much driving. Perhaps their policies would be much cheaper. But before, you've always had the option of not getting the insurance people involved in the loop if you had minor damage to your car. You can fix it yourself, especially if it's under the deductible, and not worry about it affecting your driving record. Now, wouldn't this device take that option away from you? The insurance company is effectively in the back seat with you at all times. These are the same people that cancel lukemia patients insurance because covering them is not cost effective, you know.

Re: Insurance companies are evil, altho... (none / 0) (#8)
by fluffy grue on Thu Apr 27, 2000 at 02:26:54 PM EST

I don't do much driving, so I'm all for metered insurance. As far as tickets go, the police already report any tickets you get to your insurance company unless you take the issue to court and win or get a suspended sentence. As far as them seeing whether you're speeding or driving recklessly or getting into a minor fender-bender or whatever, GPS isn't really accurate enough to make such judgments unless they're averaged over a long time period (reminds me of Feynman's protest-rousing physics joke where a woman is pulled over for speeding and says that she couldn't have been going 60 miles per hour since she was only driving for 15 minutes - some of his female students didn't find it very funny, and actually protested and picketed trying to get him thrown out of CalTech for it).

I find it particularly paranoid that you think that a minor fender-bender would be catchable by GPS. For civilians, GPS only has an accuracy of 100 feet or so, correct? How would the tracking system know the difference between a fender-bender and, say, pulling over to stretch, or going into a gas station parking lot to have a quick piss break?
--
"Is not a quine" is not a quine.
I have a master's degree in science!

[ Hug Your Trikuare ]
[ Parent ]

Re: Insurance companies are evil, altho... (none / 0) (#19)
by anymouse on Thu Apr 27, 2000 at 08:09:52 PM EST

I don't think the poster had in mind detecting fender-benders via GPS, but rather the amount of driving that you do. My experience with automotive insurance is that your rates increase with your annual mileage. The assumption is that more time on the road inceases your exposure to claim generating incidents. Along the same line, many companies reduce your rates if your claim rate is low. At the bottom line, all they care about is that their rates cover their losses plus whatever profit the competition allows.

GPS data updated every 6 minutes is not going to tell them very much about the way you drive, unless you manage to move 400 miles in 5 hours, in which case certain assumptions about your driving habits may be inferred; but it will tell them if you spend a lot of time on the road going slow, as in urban traffic, or most of your time parked at home or at work, which does affect their risk in setting your insurance premium.
--
The early bird may get the worm, but the second mouse gets the cheese
[ Parent ]

Re: Insurance companies are evil, altho... (none / 0) (#23)
by Neolith on Fri Apr 28, 2000 at 12:36:37 PM EST

I find it particularly paranoid that you think that a minor fender-bender would be catchable by GPS. For civilians, GPS only has an accuracy of 100 feet or so, correct? How would the tracking system know the difference between a fender-bender and, say, pulling over to stretch, or going into a gas station parking lot to have a quick piss break?

I don't know about the accuracy, but here in the US I thought it was around 3 meters... close enough to tell what street you are on with a gps laptop with mapping software installed. Don't you see the implication? What if your car was parked inside Big Al's Repair Garage for 4 days? Maybe the insurance co. will call Big Al to find out why. What if you went to the local Alcoholic's Anonymous meeting place two times a week and stayed for a few hours? Maybe the Insurance company will raise their rates since it is likely you or someone you drive with is an alcoholic.

You think that insurance companies don't raise their rates based on circumstantial evidence? They already heavily bais it soley on biology and outdated ideas of which sex drives the most. All you should really have to consider is: 'does the technology allow the company this ability TODAY? If not, can you forsee it allowing the company this ability TOMORROW? If so, would the company be able to screw you over for their benefit with this ability?' If you answer 'yes' to those questions, then you know it WILL happen. But then perhaps you feel that it is the insurance companies rights to know these things...

[ Parent ]

Re: Insurance companies are evil, altho... (none / 0) (#24)
by fluffy grue on Fri Apr 28, 2000 at 03:21:17 PM EST

I think it's 3 meters for the military, but for civilians (unless they pull differential GPS tricks) it's well coarser than 100 feet, due to the jitter they put in specifically to confuse non-military receivers. Also, as anymouse pointed out, they only get updates every 6 minutes.

As far as being in a garage: maybe you're getting engine work done. As far as AA meetings: support groups and SIGs usually meet at churches and other sites, rather than having a dedicated building or whatever. As far as biology goes: yes, that's how they estimate your initial premium, but the premiums change based on how much liability you demonstrate later on. They've got to start your premiums SOMEWHERE.

I don't feel it's the insurance companies' rights to know such things. I just feel that you're being overly paranoid. As soon as the insurance companies do start to exert too much over private information, that's when the EFF and ACLU step in.
--
"Is not a quine" is not a quine.
I have a master's degree in science!

[ Hug Your Trikuare ]
[ Parent ]

Re: Insurance companies are evil, altho... (none / 0) (#11)
by Skyshadow on Thu Apr 27, 2000 at 03:28:39 PM EST

Actually, this could be a really Good Thing(tm) for the tech savvy.

Consider: when was the last time a private company put out something that the Collective (ie, we on the net) weren't able to hack or find a work-around for? DVD region codes, certain card-based satelite systems, playstation copy protection, software with built-in "phone home" code built in, even divx was cracked near the end -- all of them ended up being either defeated or spoofed despite the best efforts of the money-grubbing corporates.

Say you build a switch that lets you tell the computer when to record your movements and when to pipe them to /dev/null; turn it on for your drive to and from work (or whatever) and be a Model Citizen during those specific times. Then, watch your rates fall and smile with glee as you gun your new Mustang up past 150 MPH in a school zone someplace.

Remember: We're smarter than they are.

[ Parent ]

Re: Insurance companies are evil, altho... (none / 0) (#12)
by Anonymous Hero on Thu Apr 27, 2000 at 04:15:19 PM EST

Say you build a switch that lets you tell the computer when to record your movements and when to pipe them to /dev/null; turn it on for your drive to and from work (or whatever) and be a Model Citizen during those specific times. Then, watch your rates fall and smile with glee as you gun your new Mustang up past 150 MPH in a school zone someplace.

No. They'll just lobby for the Digital Millenium Automobile Act which makes even thinking about any device which circumvents your insurance agency's meter a felony.

Remember: We're smarter than they are.

Remember: they can afford the lawyers and they have recently discovered that technology combined with a new legal framework (i.e. DMCA) lets them effectively enforce their own set of laws regardless of our Constitution and that pesky Bill of Rights.

[ Parent ]

While the idea of insurance compani... (none / 0) (#2)
by techt on Thu Apr 27, 2000 at 12:26:04 PM EST

techt voted 1 on this story.

While the idea of insurance companies (and, by extention, anyone who may collaborate with said companies) being able to keep detailed infomation on the driving habits of its customers is slightly disturbing, I found the article on the police enticing people to steal much more disturbing. Law enforcement should help prevent, not encourage, crime.
--
Proud member of the Electronic Frontier Foundation!
Are You? http://www.eff.org/support/joineff.html

Interesting approach. The thing th... (none / 0) (#5)
by Eimi on Thu Apr 27, 2000 at 12:32:50 PM EST

Eimi voted 1 on this story.

Interesting approach. The thing that worries me is that companies, once this catches on, will most likely *not* give you the choice of tradition premiums verses metered. They'll assume that you'll either take the metered, or you have something to hide. Watch for the nonmetered rates to go up, and some companies to drop them altogether, while others take the view that you can have your privacy, but you pay for it.

Two other things I wonder/worry about. Speeding tickets (could this be used as proof that you were speeding? How about proof that you weren't speeding? Is GPS even accurate enough for that sort of thing?), and cracking (on both ends). I don't want some random script kiddie finding out exactly where I was when, and I'm sure the insurance companies won't like it once ppl figure out how to get the system to report whatever driving pattern they desire.

Re: Interesting approach. The thing th... (none / 0) (#9)
by Demona on Thu Apr 27, 2000 at 02:58:16 PM EST

Just like shell accounts used to be the standard, until the world quietly started switching away from them and leaving those of us who prefer them with little or no choice in the matter. No laws were passed, yet choice was removed and freedom consequently diminished. There's the start of your "slippery slope". Today you can purchase chemically treated or organically grown food; tomorrow you may only be able to choose one or the other.

The danger with insurance is that the law makes it mandatory, making it possible for peoples' rights to be violated by private companies acting with the police power of the state.

[ Parent ]

Re: Interesting approach. The thing th... (none / 0) (#21)
by lukeg on Thu Apr 27, 2000 at 09:17:28 PM EST

trying to be positive: maybe the public will just fail to endorse this idea and it will be relegated to government and commercial vehicles only.

[ Parent ]
This might work if the security was... (none / 0) (#4)
by sergent on Thu Apr 27, 2000 at 01:58:56 PM EST

sergent voted 1 on this story.

This might work if the security was good enough, but I'm sure it wouldn't be. It would probably be too easy to fake out if you were really one of the bad guys... just fake out the GPS receiver with your own signals or something like that.

I think we're better off, as is--are high auto insurance rates really that big of an issue for most people?

One other option would be to just take public transit when you're planning on committing a crime...

So I just don't see very much positive coming out of this, but a lot of potential negative coming out of it.

Similar Idea... (none / 0) (#10)
by evro on Thu Apr 27, 2000 at 03:04:25 PM EST

Blah. I hate things like this. Check this story about how the UK was/is going to use similar tech to catch speeders (found here). As far as I'm concerned, speeding is not a crime.
---
"Asking me who to follow -- don't ask me, I don't know!"
Bother (none / 0) (#13)
by End on Thu Apr 27, 2000 at 05:35:12 PM EST

It would already cost me more to insure my car for two months than the thing is worth in the first place (Plymouth Horizon)....

-JD

Hacking Metered Auto Insurance (none / 0) (#14)
by Nyarlathotep on Thu Apr 27, 2000 at 05:58:35 PM EST

There is no "if" about police abusing this information. The courts could hand over warents for the information, but just like automatic toll booths the courts will not need to ask the company. The cops will show up, say we want this information, the company will say "Ok." It would be possible to make a meter without a transmitter which recorded your driving habits, did the calculations the company would want, and saved these calculations to a disk (forgetting the information), but this will not happen since the company wants to be able to change the information they want (and sell your driving habits to direct marketers so that the direct marketers can only call you when you are home). The only solution is to hack the device. If crappy drivers can lower their inshurance premiums by hacking the meter and criminals can hide their driving habits then the companies will not care so much about the metered inshurance and the cops will not take your driving records so seriously.
Campus Crusade for Cthulhu -- it found me!
Invasive (none / 0) (#15)
by bozak911 on Thu Apr 27, 2000 at 06:14:43 PM EST

This idea is completely invasive.

Imagine a company that can literally trace your every move and *log* it for future use.

I do not want to be billed more money if I happen to get a craving in the middle of the night for donuts and ice cream.

Trust me, you do not want to give insurance companies more power. They are already bill everyone completely too much for the "service" they offer.
"Show me a man with 'No Fear' and I will show you a fool." --Anonymous
Re: Metered Auto Insurance (none / 0) (#16)
by chicmome on Thu Apr 27, 2000 at 06:52:26 PM EST

It's either a really great idea, or one of the most invasive I've ever heard of. If I can leave the unit on my kitchen table most of the time then show me the dotted line, otherwise give me a monthly rate.

Night Driving..... Unsafe?! (none / 0) (#22)
by Anonymous Hero on Fri Apr 28, 2000 at 02:53:05 AM EST

What gets my goat is the assumption that night driving is unsafe by a factor of 4 (and you are charged 4x's more!!!). This is undoubtably based on factors such as drunk drivers, drowsiness hooligans, and reduced driving visibility during rain and snow (compounded by the lack of light).

However, as someone who has put half the miles on my car on interstates, I think it is fair to say that nighttime driving is a safe or safer time to drive if you are awake and sober. There is far less traffic, 3/4+ of which is often professional truck drivers that know what they are doing. The roads are very open so you can pass or be passed very easily (and safely). Interstates, in general, are very safe. Will this system account for any of these factors?

Insurance rates are already heavily impacted by screwy demographics (zip codes, age, marital status, type of vehicle). More of the same will not be helpful. Imagine planning a long road trip and having to adjust your schedule not to when it is safe and convenient to drive but rather when it is cheap. That's a recipe for disaster. And if it is cheaper to drive thru gridlock morning traffic, how will this help traffic problems?

Metered Auto Insurance | 24 comments (24 topical, 0 editorial, 0 hidden)
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