back to article Would you let your car insurer snoop on you for a better deal?

Having your driving style assessed by a back-seat black box of tricks sounds galling – but if it can shave money off your insurance premium, a beancounting firm reckons you'll put up with it. Particularly if you're an 18-year-old pimple-faced lad. The gadget-based insurance scheme rewards careful drivers with lower premiums, and …

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Small correction

"Driving under the speed limit in the wrong lane" is not an offence if you're overtaking something slower, such as a lorry governed to 56mph. It's not compulsory to do 70mph in the rightmost two lanes of a motorway.

Obviously, dawdling along in the middle lane overtaking nothing and causing a holdup is a Bad Thing.

I think our Reg correspondent has been watching Top Gear.

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Paris Hilton

Undertaking

I thought it was only ok if in traffic or where the lanes are clearly marked as seperate, havent got my dvla book at hand.

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Anonymous Coward

>"Driving under the speed limit in the wrong lane" is not an offence if you're overtaking something slower, such as a lorry governed to 56mph.

I do not think this is an offence at all.

There are places where a minimum limit is posted on a round blue sign showing the minimum speed, but generally 'driving under the speed limit' is encouraged.....

Plod will probably still do you for driving without due care and attention if you start holding up too much traffic mind.

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FAIL

"wrong lane"

It depends on your definition of "wrong lane". In reality the answer is always "it depends" and that is the problem.

Often, arriving at the end of a motorway on ramp at under 50mph is downright dangerous. Sometimes it is entirely appropriate.

Perhaps the author should have chosen a better example. Here are a few suggestions of risky driving behaviours that this box will not spot:

Tailgating

Undertaking

Putting on makeup whilst driving

Driving at night with no lights on

Driving with insufficient tread on tires

Driving with a dirty or cracked windscreen

Driving the wrong way on a dual carriageway

Disobeying turning restrictions

Overloading your vehicle

Playing on your PSP whilst driving

Inappropriate use of indicators

Blinding oncoming traffic with full beam headlights

Using the wrong lane at a roundabout

Mounting the curb

Need I go on?

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While what you say is true, if you drive at 10mph in the right hand lane, or even the left hand lane, and you are not doing it because you are stuck behind something else, then you can expect a more severe penalty than someone doing 90mph.

Driving in the wrong lane could also mean driving on the wrong side of the road on a single carriageway.

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Anonymous Coward

Undertaking

Is not in and of itself dangerous although an officer may take it as a sign of dangerous driving. Although the Highway Code does state a few conditions where it is expressly permitted.

My defence if stopped for doing it would be along the lines of:

"Officer, I did not change lanes to perform the near-side pass as I have been in the left-most lane for the past [n] miles or so, nor was I excess of the posted speed limit or a safe speed for the prevailing conditions, nor did I sound my horn, flash my light or make any other aggressive gesture, and I determined one considerately executed manoeuvre to be safer than five (two lane changes, an overtake and two further lane changes to get left again) in order to pass that complete cock who thinks he owns the middle lane."

I have never been stopped for undertaking and I am damned sure I have been observed doing it.

Oh, and one final mini-rant; ZIP FILTER YOU CRETINS! It's more efficient for all concerned and it is not "queue jumping".

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Maybe

But it has gotten so bad that some places in the US (Arkansas, Indiana, and at least one other state) have tried to make it against the law to go under the speed limit in the passing lane unless impeded from doing so (slow traffic ahead of you, construction, weather, etc). This was one thing where left and right, black and white, Democrat and Republican, libertarian and socialist, all agreed. In fact, I know one pacifist who was for imposing the death penalty for it, and no one called them crazy. (And keep in mind, she was a pacifist, so it's not like she'd fight you over it.) However, in at least one case the ACLU blocked it because people had the right to go under the speed limit in the passing lane.

I always thought that driving was a privilege, not a right. The ACLU lost the plot here.

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Anonymous Coward

It depends.

In some parts of the world, there are minimum speed limits in different lanes, Portugal does this quit frequently on motorways with steep hills.

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Re: Ross R

Wow all of my pet peeves in one nice list.

Though I had a similar idea (just not the enthusiasm to follow it through) but the box also had cameras mounted around the car.

Indeed the idea was to reduce the insurance levels people pay (not just the young un's) and came about after someone went up my rear end and had the audacity to say it wasn't him (damage to my car not his) and the insurance company did no investigation and just took his word.

"But sir we have sent them a letter" the only thing the insurance company did in 5 months. Why do we pay them again?

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FAIL

@myself

I'm right (Sorry downvoter you are wrong), highway code 253 states - Do not overtake on the left or move to a lane on your left to overtake. In congested conditions, where adjacent lanes of traffic are moving at similar speeds, traffic in left-hand lanes may sometimes be moving faster than traffic to the right. In these conditions you may keep up with the traffic in your lane even if this means passing traffic in the lane to your right. Do not weave in and out of lanes to overtake.

Source: http://www.direct.gov.uk/en/TravelAndTransport/Highwaycode/DG_069862

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Actually some of those things could be detected. Driving at night with no lights on, overloading and mounting the curb - are there not sufficient sensors on many cars to check those?

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Trollface

You mean 268 not 253, and that is the highway code, not law.

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Paris Hilton

You missed one Ross R

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2010/03/09/florida_crash/

It's one way to avoid being picked up by the fuzz

Paris, I'll bet she's never been picked up by the fuzz.... Oh hang, she has.....

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zb

Be careful what you wish for, it may be granted

No, you need not go on. Why not look at what it can do rather than what it cannot. A lot of information is generated which will allow an insurer to assess the risk of covering a driver. So far that is all that it claims to do.

The sad thing is that it will probably be wildly successful, eventually do all things in your list and then be sold to parents, police, employers and we will all have a "spy in the cab" reporting on everything that we do and teams of faceless bureaucrats handing out fines.

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Silver badge

"You mean 268 not 253, and that is the highway code, not law."

Can't tell if it applies in this case as I don't have a copy to hand, but large chunks of the highway code relate to the Road Traffic Act and therefore are law. Normally it says in the little book when this applies.

Whilst we're here though, anyone who thinks an insurance company won't use this device's data to weasel out of paying your claim is a fool. Whilst high cost insurance doesn't ensure a good service I am always wary of the real low cost operators as they have to be saving money somewhere and I'm pretty sure they all use cheap call centres.

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Anonymous Coward

it is

If you are going the wrong way on a one way street or on the wrong side of the motorway

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Thumb Up

Clarification

You can undertake if you are in slow moving traffic, or that the lanes have been separated such that they are leading to different roads, at this point each lane is considered a seperate road in its own right.

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Anonymous Coward

Old news?

Didn't NU/Aviva already try, and abandon, this approach a few years ago?

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Anonymous Coward

Not quite the same but similar

Pay As You Drive took into account routes / time of travel etc. in addition to the other parameters.

It cost a lot of money to run - the telematics were significant and billing / MI complex.

There was (apparently) no business case - this, of course, was discoverd after the pilot of real-customers completed and lots of money spent.

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Anonymous Coward

They did running on a teradata platform. It was pretty awesome but canned as marketing couldn't bring a positive spin to it. One of the nice things about it was a panic button that was fitted with the telematics box - we rescued a few stranded people via that.

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I would never go for this. But then I drive like a Punk Rocker on PCP. Might make sense for the the more accelerationally challenged out there though.

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Anonymous Coward

Other applications

This technology will enable other applications though wont it? Like for instance carbon taxing your vehicle usage with a high level of precision since it measures how hard your accelerating as well as just your speed and distance.

These things can be made madatory through the insurance companies by forcing you to have one to get insurance. I recently experienced an example of this myself having to go through a number of insurers untill I would find one who would insure my new wheels without madating that I fit a GPS enabled anti-theft system to the vehicle since it's a bit of a theif magnet.

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Anonymous Coward

@AC RE Carbon taxing

Dude, there is a much easier way of collecting carbon tax based on how much carbon is emitted - add the carbon tax to fuel cost at source. No need for any weird maths and other pointless shite.

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Silver badge

There is already an extremely accurate method of carbon taxing which we already use, which is to charge tax per litre at the pump. It is much more accurate than any other method because you know exactly how much carbon there is in a litre of fuel.

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He's got a point, though: Carbon tax isn't just taken at the pump. The government also wants to charge businesses for how far their workers travel by car when commuting to work via carbon taxes, and that's on top of charging for how far the business fleet travels, and next is how far customers travel to visit the site...

Three guesses what project I'm working on at the moment :(

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Ru

It ain't all bad

If your employer doesn't already support telecommuting, maybe with sufficient financial pressure in the form of commuter carbon taxes will wake them up.

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Black Helicopters

Doubt and Suspicion

I'm not normally the cynical type, but when it comes down to insurers...

This seems like a good idea in principal, but with the depths insurers will go to to avoid making legitimate payouts I'd be paranoid of having a no-fault incident, perhaps sitting at a junction and someone running into the back of me, and my insurers refusing to pay out on the grounds that 3 minutes earlier I'd exceeded the speed limit by 2mph.

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Stop

I think you'll find

The depths insurers go to to avoid making legitimate payouts is directly related to the heights people will go to to inflate or falsify a claim.

I refuse to go AC on this, even though I expect howls of downvotes as I've worked for the insurance industry and heard some toe-curlers ....

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I happen to agree with you, Jimmy, and there are reports of how bad the false claims are getting.

The thing is: Honest people suffer. What ever happens, it's my pocket these companies raid just so they cover their costs and make their profits. And there's no one (or no one who is independent) regulating them.

Which is why I'd never allow an insurance company to spy on me, no matter what the discount they offered. I've no reason to believe they'll keep my details confidential. After all, they've been caught selling claims information to solicitors who then try the personal injury scam.

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At least there's an incentive this time.

Putting it into cars wholesale? Not a good idea. But giving drivers an INCENTIVE to do it? Now you're putting the market to use. All we can do now is wait and see how this goes.

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Under a few conditions...

...I might.

1) I have full access to all the data.

2) The data is in an open standard that anyone can implement.

3) I can, at my discretion, disable the device.

4) The company will not, unless via my express consent of legal process, pass the information on to any third party for any reason whatsoever. And that may include other departments within the same company.

5) When calculating the premium, then company explains IN FULL how it works it out.

There are probably more that should be added but as the negatives far out-weigh any positives there's little point in continuing. For example, I can see the police demanding access and trawling the data looking for speeding offences etc.

For professional drivers (truckers, taxi etc) it might be worthwhile. But for the private citizen the risks are simply too great.

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Anonymous Coward

@The BigYin

It won't work like that.

Insurers will say: This is what we will do with your data, this is how we will store your data, these are subject to change at our discretion, if you disable the device your insurance is void and when calculating the premium you get the option to either (a) take it or (b) leave it.

They will then give you a quote - at which point you are free to exercise either option (a) or (b) above.

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Truck drivers already have tachometers to measure and record their speed.

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But truck drivers are not driving their own trucks (usually) and because of the risks that such massive vehicles pose, they are subject to stricter monitoring and stricter licensing.

I can only thank the gods that people who don't care about cars, who tend to be the worst drivers, generally buy little crapwagons that fall apart after running over a nightcrawler, or drive a minivan, which has the acceleration and maneuverability of a warthog giving birth to octuplets. During the SUV craze it could get a bit hairy. (And I say that as someone who drives an SUV.)

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Anonymous Coward

nuff said

"I can only thank the gods that people who don't care about cars, who tend to be the worst drivers ...... (And I say that as someone who drives an SUV.) "

Unless you measure your back garden in acres. Or you live down a muddy track, in which case you're excused.

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Ru
Facepalm

"in which case you're excused."

You'll only be excused if you're driving a practical vehicle, not a beefed up toy. Guess which category most *S*UVs fall into.

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Silver badge

With no up-link...

...a device could be useful for accident investigation. e.g. it stores the last 5 minutes of various vehicle states and maybe from a few cameras. Again, as the owner of the vehicle, I would demand the ability to see the data.

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Mushroom

Over my dead body

I don't fucking think so!

I enjoy driving and when i feel like it, driving enthusiastically. I don't want or need some patronising arse of an insurer to tell me i'm 'doing it wrong' and charge me a massive premium for it. As long as it's within the law and what I deem to be safe i'll drive as i damned well please.

I'll take my chances and enjoy my driving thanks.

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Anonymous Coward

I think you're missing the point...

... the insurers are already charging you a massive premium for your style of driving (they simply assume all drivers are as "enthusiastic" as you, and tar everyone with the same brush of charge scales).

What they are looking to offer here is you the chance to lower your premium, by giving them proof that you are not "enthusiastic" in the slightest. It's nothing to do with telling you are doing wrong, they already assume you are doing wrong.

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Anonymous Coward

Statistics

It's not about "doing it wrong", it's statistics.

If you do things that put you in a group that correlates with a high accident risk, you pay more. If you don't you pay less. That includes driving at times of the day with relatively more accidents.

Over time, a driver builds an insurance history that can be used to assess risk.

These devices are just a way of being able to demonstrate that driving behavior either isn't typical of the group the driver would be lumped in with or is better than their historic record.

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In the short term...

You are probably right, but this is would end up being the first step into a mindset from the insurers that goes like this:

"Why wouldn't you want this installed? It saves you money. If you don't want if, it must mean you're a bad driver and don't wanted to be outed as such. We should hike your premiums to reflect this. Oh, everyone's going for it because they want to save money, which means we're making less money. Time to up EVERYONE'S premium."

And the long term result is premiums don't change, unless you don't have a black box installed, at which point your insurance costs are astronomical.

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Don't think it needs to be "mindset", simple economics/game theory does it

Figure that those who (think they) drive carefully will want these so that they can save a little money. Pretty quickly, they'll find out if they DO "drive carefully" or not, and those that don't, will quit being monitored.

No nefarious intent involved, insurance rates for the unmonitored will go up because they are the less safe group. As more people try this option, the customers will sort themselves out into two pools, one that is monitored and more safe, the other that is unmonitored and less safe (because all the safe drivers are off being monitored and saving money).

Two things would enhance this effect. One, is (near-) real-time feedback on safety, where the computer lets you know about safety mistakes (and maybe sounds an alarm for big ones) so that you can learn. Two, is real-time charging. If you can save money by driving less (at least in the US, auto insurance costs a big fixed fee plus a low cost per self-reported mile). This gives a larger group of people an incentive to try it (and will also cut driving overall, since it raises the incremental cost per mile).

In addition, the correlation between what that black box thinks is safe, and what IS safe, will go up, because the insurers will have a mess of data to work with. It's never going to be a strong correlation because most speeding, most tailgating, and most stop-running does not result in crashes; my personal theory is that you need at least two things to go "wrong" at the same time.

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Anonymous Coward

... sadly

people who think like that often forget it's not just your dead body that results

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@Dibbley

Nope, you've got it back to front.

They will charge more if you show you're enthusiastic.

Look at the current change in insurance: Before you were classed as 'Social and domestic' or 'Business'. People complained that they were paying for commuters who were higher risk than those who didn't drive to work. So there's now a 'social, domestic and commuter' option, for which you pay more.

Insurance firms don't reduce your premiums: They find reasons to increase them, okay?

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FAIL

Ok, I'll bite...

If I actually believed that they would reduce the premiums rather than just go "No, 'cos see this sudden breaking event here?" when you'd stopped sharp to avoid some lunatic pulling out of a side road.

And how does it know if it's me or the wife driving, cos presumably you can have more than one driver insured on a car? I'd guess it's a marketing wheeze rather than a genuine attempt to do anything serious....

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Devil

THe british army already has these sensors in their cars. A friend has already been dinged for 'dangerous driving'. When he asked to see the data, it was for a single event when he had to do an emerency stop.

Who honestly believes that insurance conpanys will not use the data for any excuse to push the premium up?

Hands up......anyone?

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Anonymous Coward

Save you money? Actually, It depends

One of my former employers provided the software algorithms for a few of these pay as you drive schemes.

They were broken, we knew they were broken, we knew what the problem was. But due to the age of the system, we were unable to do anything about it.

The problem is that when you take out insurance, you do so based on the price of the policy on that day. Insurers however, keep updating the same policies they have to offer all the time, in line with the latest rates.

This means that on a month by month basis, the BASE rate that the premium is calculated from, goes up.

If you get an insurance quote, agree an instalment scheme (these are pretty extortionate, credit cards are often cheaper!) or pay it off all in one go, then for you, this isn't a problem.

HOWEVER!

If, like these pay as you drive customers, your mileage adjustment is calculated each month. The quoting system we used could not store more than TWO copies (this month's and NEXT month's) of the rates used to work out your premium, which means that the adjustment you're paying is NOT just for your mileage, but for the increase in the price of insurance on top.

This was pro-rata adjusted appropriately, but still, in once case i tracked an 80% increase in price over the 12 months of one customers policy, every month the mileage increased and the 'driving' improved, but the premiums still went up, every month an extra charge was added because of the increase in market price at the time.

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Define safety?

My bet: speed limit comparisons notwithstanding, someone who does 40mph everywhere will produce 'safer' telemetrics than a police class 1 driver staying within civilian limits. I know whose car I'd rather be in.

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Pirate

Yeah, I've seen some of those police drivers on TV, and staying within the limits of the law tends not to be a big part of their repertoire: "look how dangerous the car in front is, overtaking on a bend. See how clearly you can see him as we follow along behind doing the same thing..."

"Oh look, he has stopped suddenly and we ran straight into the back of him..." etc.

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Gold badge

I'll take that bet

Because I don't think you can "do 40mph everywhere" without the occasional piece of hard braking as your uniform daydream meets up with the reality that not everyone else is doing 40mph everywhere.

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