Snapshot’e monitors drivers for bad habits

By Robert Varga

If you watch TV you are probably aware of Flo; the peppy insurance salesperson from the Progressive commercials. She is always trying to sell some new service, and the current offer is for a device called “Snapshot.”

This device monitors your driving habits so Progressive can adjust your rate to reflect how good or bad of a driver you are. Driving practices like being too hard on your brakes or going too fast around a corner could raise your insurance rate.

While the intentions of both Progressive and cities such as San Francisco are good, it is all too likely that this information could be used to benefit corporations instead of the public.

Progressive is using Flo and the Snapshot to ease drivers into the practice of your auto insurance company spying on your driving. It is akin to a health insurance company raising your rates because you eat fast food too often.

This little device plugs into the OBD-II port under your dash in your car, which is a standard port that has been in cars since 1996. The device then tracks your driving and wirelessly reports the information to Progressive.

Progressive tells drivers to drive like they normally would, and they will create a personal quote to save them money. Progressive says they track things such as how many miles you drive, what times you drive and how often you slam on your brakes.

Many insurance companies offer good driver discounts, which usually reward you for not getting in any accidents or receiving any tickets. These programs are great as they help promote safe driving and keep drivers’ insurance costs down.

Progressive wants to take this practice to the next level by actively spying on you. It may be voluntary at this point, but there is no reason why they could not make this mandatory for all new customers.

The Snapshot device is currently available to drivers in all but eight states, California being one of the excluded states. Progressive plans on making this usage-based insurance plan available nation wide soon.

Progressive’s current policy is you can only save money by using the Snapshot, and poor driving will not raise your insurance rates. They say seven out of 10 drivers end up getting their rates lowered after using Snapshot.

What happens when using the Snapshot becomes mandatory though? It is possible that 30 percent of drivers insured with Progressive could be looking at higher premiums or may even have their policy cancelled.

Progressive’s goal is to save their company money by not having to insure bad drivers at the standard rate. It is not unreasonable to think Progressive would cancel your policy if you didn’t drive within their limits, much like cellular providers can cancel your service if you overuse their ‘unlimited’ data plan.

This idea of monitoring your driving also plays into the plans of several local governments in the U.S., who want to introduce a vehicle mileage tax, or VMT. San Francisco is one city that has proposed such a tax, where vehicle taxes would be based on the number of miles driven.

The goal is to cut down on the amount of driving people do and to get people to use public transportation more.

San Francisco also wants to reduce the amount of greenhouse gasses produced in the city.

With devices such as Progressive’s Snapshot, remotely monitoring the number of miles people drive becomes easier than ever. It is possible the days of driving wherever and whenever you want are done.


Nicole Calinawan/The Poly Post


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