Would you give up privacy to save money?

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Motorists around the world are trading privacy – by installing “black box” telematics technology in their vehicles – to save money on their car insurance premiums. But would you do the same?

Telematics – the combining of telecommunications and informatics in cars to make them smarter – enables insurance companies to monitor and measure driver behaviours, including how they use their cars.

At the moment, Australia lags behind countries including Britain, Italy, South Africa and the United States in the use of telematics. But experts say there will be “decent progress” in its use here over the next five years.

Stephen Mills, business analytics optimisation strategy Lead, UK and Ireland, at IBM, said telematics is about grabbing factual data about what we do day-to-day in our cars.

“That’s compared to how it traditionally is at the moment; when we get a car insurance policy it’s based on what I might do, where I might drive, where I might store my car overnight, how many miles I might drive,” he said.

“That’s changed to how you actually drive.”

Data on where, when and how fast and far a vehicle travels – as well as acceleration and breaking rates – is captured once per second using a device fitted to a vehicle, before being processed by the device provider to determine driving trends.

The so-called black-box technology allows insurers to more easily assess risk and price policies more accurately, and says Mills, it’s promising to introduce a new and very different way to insure cars.

“It’s all about a new way of getting close to your customers, understanding what we do, when we do it, how we do it and enabling insurance companies to give you a policy based on your specific driving approach,” he said.

The technology also promises to take some of the pain out of the car insurance claim process.

“If you’re in your car and you have an accident the device records the fact that you’ve had an impact. That impact can automatically trigger your claims process and cut out the middle part of having to phone up to kick off the process, get someone to fill in the paperwork,” he explained.

The benefits of telematics are apparent, but downsides – including concerns around privacy – remain.  Not only is a driver’s every move recorded and analysed, but questions are also being raised around how that information may be stored and used by a provider.

Michelle Hutchison, spokeswoman for RateCity, said the drivers who potentially stand to gain the most from this kind of technology are likely to be the ones already driving safely and whose premiums already reflect their record.

But, she says, there could be some benefit in telematics for drivers whose age, for instance, predetermines their risk profile.

“Typically, under 25s will pay a higher premium for car insurance because they are perceived to be a higher risk of accident in the eyes of a provider. Telematics could be one way to help a young person reduce their premium if they demonstrate safe driving skills,” she said.

“But a less invasive way to help reduce the amount you pay for comprehensive car insurance is to simply jump online and compare policies and premiums using a site like RateCity and select the most suitable option for your circumstances.”



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