In what “could herald a new era in auto insurance” (if the Wall Street Journal is right), Progressive “introduced a new type of car insurance that offers a discount to policyholders based on real-time information about how and when they drive.”
And how will Progressive obtain all that info? You guessed it, with a gizmo. Plugged into the OBD system, Snapshot “keeps track of your good driving habits,” as the particularly obnoxious Flo commercial promises. “In fact, Snapshot cares only about a few small things. Like how hard you brake, when you are on the road, the miles you drive.”
So what about bad driving habits? “Other stuff like how fast you drive or where you drive – it just doesn’t care about that,” promises Flo with the combined credence of Benedict Arnold, Pinocchio and Bernie Madoff.
Actually, “The only thing it cares about is saving you money.”
Ok, let’s add Richard Nixon.
The gizmo is part of Progressive’s “Pay As You Drive®” (yep, they trademarked that) program. It should be renamed to “Save While You Stop™”. Progressive offers snap-shot drivers discounts of up to 30 percent, if they brake gently, if they don’t drive during rush hour, and if they stay at home between midnight and 4am.
Basically, the less you drive, the more you save. Most likely you will achieve the full 30 percent savings when you don’t drive at all. Say hello to your car’s ankle bracelet. Oh, Progressive says the gizmo does not contain a GPS and won’t know how fast you go where. (Maybe speed does not kill. Or that feature is left for Snapshot 2.0)
“Other insurers—most notably Allstate Corp.—are working hard to catch up with their own usage-based insurance offerings,” threatens the Journal.
Progressive meanwhile is working on the next-gen Snapshot. Progressive Chief Executive Glenn Renwick told the Journal that in a few years, the gizmo will be obsolete. The data would be gathered from a customer’s cellphone instead.
In the meantime, let’s hope Progressive keeps the insufferable Flo commercials. They might be the biggest barrier to entry.