Device lets insurance giant track miles, speed, braking behaviors

They say it sounds like Big Brother, but a high-tech piece of equipment that tracks your driving could bring you big savings on car insurance. That is enough for some people to accept it with open arms.

Progressive Insurance, the same folks who have the extremely annoying, possibly coked up character “Flo” in their commercials is introducing its Snapshot discount program in Michigan this week according to The Detroit News. The program involves installing a data collection device on your vehicle that records how much you drive, how fast you drive and when, and how hard you hit the brakes.


Depending on how these factors add up, drivers can get up to a 30 percent discount. The assumption is that they have some sort of an equation that tells them who deserves the savings.


You know what happens when you assume things right? Your insurance company screws you over (true story).


According to The Detroit News the program already saves a compliant Tiana Kennedy more than 15 percent coverage for her sliver BMW. The 35-year-old Easter Seals clinician does tons of driving for her job.


“When I got the insurance I opted for any discount I could get,” Kennedy of Farmington Hills told The Detroit News. “So when they offered this, I said, ‘No problem.'”

And now we have the details. A small device about the size of a garage-door opener plugs into an existing computer diagnostic port in the car, explains Heather Day, a spokeswoman for Progressive, which is based in Mayfield Village, Ohio, a Cleveland suburb.


“We can calculate when someone is driving, what kind of mileage they’re putting on the car, and what their driving behavior is related to braking,” Day said to The News. One of the things the device doesn’t do is pinpoint where you’re driving or the conditions around you, such as weather or speed limits, since it doesn’t have a global positioning system, she added.


She continues “We don’t use it to actually calculate speed, and the device doesn’t have GPS, so we don’t have any idea how fast they’re going relative to the speed limit,” Day says.


An older version of the program is already in operation in 27 states, it has more than 100,000 drivers signed up, Progressive says.


The insurance giant sends the device to (gullible) drivers who then plug it in and get an initial discount after 30 days of being monitored by the insurance company. A final discount is set after six months, when the policy comes up for renewal.     


Progressive’s Snapshot is an extension of like programs from other insurance companies that wish to align insurance rates with customers’ driving skills and habits, explained John Egan, managing editor of to The News.


“A lot of auto insurance companies are engaging in what’s called ‘pay as you drive,’ and this is an offshoot,” Egan said to The News. “It adds a new wrinkle that might be called, ‘pay how you drive.'”

Both GMAC and State Farm have programs that calculate insurance rates based on the mileage recorded through OnStar GPS devices on General Motors Co. vehicles, Egan said to The News.

Pay as you drive, pay how you drive. Some methods use GPS, some don’t. Here’s my question, how long until practices like these receive so much praise and esteem that they become standard?

Is saving a few bucks here and there on a service whose whole business model is geared towards ripping you off worth it? Do people really not see where things like this are going to lead us?

Right now it’s the insurance companies who want to ride along with us and make sure we’re using their services correctly. How long before the mortgage bankers want to be able to install cameras to make sure we’re taking good enough care of the home they were generous enough to finance for us?

How long will it be before government health agencies want to install doodads and meters in our bodies to make sure we are making the best of our “free” healthcare and taking care of our bodies according to government standards? Am I crazy here?

Do other people actually see what I see and think that this is another unnecessary attempt by the state to pervert technology in order to control us? Human beings are essentially uncontrollable, but when you throw in free pizza or saving a few dollars here and there people forget their wild, uncontrollable nature and they fall in line.


Technology will either lead us to our salvation or our slaughter. It really depends on which side offers up the best reason for us to give up our autonomy.