By on June 26, 2008

m1×00049_onstar.jpgOur own Jonathan Locker has wondered aloud whether big brother-like aspects of remotely-monitored telematics systems make them worthwhile. But even the Gadsen Flag crowd might be tempted to allow a spy in the trunk if it means saving up to 60 percent on car insurance. The Wall Street Journal documents how insurance companies like Progressive and GMAC Insurance are using telematics to determine customers driving styles– and offer discounts or surcharges accordingly. The Progressive self-reported (non-GPS) mileage program is currently offered in Michigan, Minnesota and Oregon. A staggering 34 percent of customers in those markets have been using the system to save money since 2004. GMAC's program is tied to GM's OnStar system; it costs $199 to $299 after a 12 month free introductory period. But with up to 54 percent in "good driver" discounts available, GMAC reports a 200 percent rise in subscriptions since last year. But these discounts are only available if telematics tell your insurance company that you use your gas and brake pedals within their "safe use" parameters. Brake too hard, drive to many miles, or drag race someone at a stop light and you could be looking at up to nine percent surcharges.

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16 Comments on “Telematics For The [Insurance] People...”


  • avatar
    seoultrain

    This is not a good precedent. It will be very easy for Progressive to progress (ha!) to an OnStar subscription being required for the base rate, and adding a “what are you hiding” surcharge if you don’t want them monitoring you. Hopefully this won’t spread beyond OnStar (and GM).

  • avatar
    quasimondo

    Maybe that’s what we need to tame you horrid drivers.

  • avatar

    quasimondo : Maybe that’s what we need to tame you horrid drivers.

    Maybe the aggressive ones, I don’t see how it will fix the oblivious ones. The later are more of an issue IMO.

  • avatar
    SunnyvaleCA

    $199 to $299 per year in costs? Ridiculous. My total insurance bill is only $400/year. Actually, I think I’m the one who should be getting a discount: by having only liability insurance I have added incentive to not crash.

  • avatar
    bjcpdx

    Let’s say I brake “too hard” to avoid hitting the child that ran into the street. Does that count?

    Anyway, as the system is only available on GM vehicles, and GM sales are decreasing annually, it appears that Progressive has hitched their wagon to a falling OnStar (apologies to Ralph Waldo Emerson).

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    Actually, several companies license (or at least used to license) OnStar.

    Acura and Audi come to mind.

  • avatar
    Edward Niedermeyer

    Does anyone who actually enjoys driving think saving some money is worth this intrusion?

  • avatar
    Jonathan I. Locker

    I know I may sound a tad alarmist, but do you really think that in about 5-10 years you will be able to get insurance AT ALL without a little black box reporting everything you do to the insurance company?

    Apple is giving us the iPhone with GPS on July 11th. How hard will it be in a few years to bolt an iPhone sized device onto EVERY CAR for insurance purposes? Not hard at all.

    And if you think you will be able to pay more money so you won’t be spied on, why would they want to insure you at all? They won’t. Why pay to insure someone who has basically admitted to breaking the rules of the road.

    Only government regulation will allow us to keep on driving without the evil eye of the insurance industry in our car with us.

  • avatar
    guyincognito

    @ Jonathan I. Locker:

    “How hard will it be in a few years to bolt an iPhone sized device onto EVERY CAR for insurance purposes?”

    Isn’t that called a navigation system? People will soon demand it as standard equipment, and with the webification of said systems insurance companies, penile enlargement specialists, and dating sites will be able to track your every move.

  • avatar
    golden2husky

    The lack of response on this topic is shocking (unless they are still in shock from today’s “activist” Supreme Court decisions). Numerous cases of lawsuit outcomes being shaped by the data on GM and VW black boxes is already well documented. I don’t care if somebody voluntarily agrees to allow monitoring for the possibility of savings, but there should be legislation passed that prohibits any company from requiring a monitoring device. I also feel that a car’s ECU’s should purge all driving information when the car is shut off. The fact that my car’s computer can be used to “rat me out” makes my blood boil. The computer is mine and so is the data. What about laws regarding self incrimination? Maybe I should make it easily removable so I can pop it out and destroy it on the spot if I ever get into a crash…

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    Apple is giving us the iPhone with GPS on July 11th. How hard will it be in a few years to bolt an iPhone sized device onto EVERY CAR for insurance purposes? Not hard at all.

    I work in a distribution firm now, and we do exactly this with our sales force and delivery truck fleet. And yes, it’s for insurance purposes, as well as standard fleet management.

    You know what’s scary? It works. Since we installed GPS in the trucks, the number of motorist complaint calls to our 1-800-HOWS-MY-DRIVING line went down significantly. So did overtime claims by drivers, while correspondingly, deliverys/day and salesrep visits/day are way up.

    People really do behave when they’re being watched.

  • avatar
    niloC

    This is a terrible idea, but certainly part of a trend. How ’bout the fact that we’re also being recorded by an ever increasing number of surveillance cameras in public places?

    Regarding those 1-800 number stickers I have always felt bad for the chumps that have to drive around with what amounts to a “kick me” sign stuck on their bumper.

    You don’t see them very often anymore but the “How’s my driving? Call 1 800 Eat Sh_t” stickers would always crack me up. Juvenile I know.

  • avatar
    GS650G

    Obviously only certain drivers will take advantage of this. The end game is getting everyone to be FORCED to take part. Once a certain penetration (appropriate word) has been achieved legislation can be introduced to make it so. See “The UK” for ideas.

    Insurance companies play the risk game very well and when they can eliminate an unknown, especially in their favor, they will. If insurance were optional I would have no problem with it but mandated insurance coverage means by law you are someone’s customer. Now the insurance companies have your sack in their hands.

    From here it is a small step to automatically ticketing a driver for speeding, tailgating , touching the crosswalk at a red light, and the ultimate control of limiting vehicle operation during certain situations. With GPS enabled computer tracking all this and more is possible. If you think it can’t happen think again. Plenty of money and hookers are spent in Washington passing laws to fleece 300 million people, this will be no exception.

    Too bad cars were not around in 1791 because I’m sure the Constitution would have included at least one right to travel unmolested about the country.

  • avatar
    WildBill

    “The lack of response on this topic is shocking (unless they are still in shock from today’s “activist” Supreme Court decisions).”

    Activist? What is activist about restoring/reaffirming our 2nd Amendment rights? Activist would be legislating from the bench, finding “rights” where none existed before. This decision is a return to sanity.

    Back to topic, I agree this is a bad situation if mandated (and I work for an insurance company). Monitoring would be a good thing if you think you could save some money over the standard rate, otherwise you wouldn’t want it.

  • avatar
    bjcpdx

    psarhjinian,

    I know that OnStar was available on some Subaru models a few years back when GM owned a percentage of the company. No more.

    I went to the OnStar website before my first post, and if it is currently available on anything besides GM products, I couldn’t find it there.

  • avatar

    this post is pretty intense! I think people are a little to paranoid. but to each his own, see I work for an AD agency that does work for OnStar … and OnStar is pretty serious about these sorts of things.

    This link is kinda long, but it will explain everything:

    http://www.onstar.com/us_english/jsp/privacy_policy.jsp”


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