Insurance Discounts For Software That Won't Deliver Calls To Cars In Motion

from the so-that's-how-it-works dept

Remember how we couldn't figure out who would ever buy some new software that would stop calls from reaching mobile phones that were in motion? The (weak) idea behind the software is that it prevents drivers from accepting phone calls. Of course, it seems cheaper and more effective to just ignore your phone while driving -- or if that's too difficult, to just turn it off while driving. So it seemed difficult to believe that anyone would actually pay for such software.

Except we didn't count on one thing: car insurance companies.

Apparently Nationwide Insurance will (seriously) give drivers a discount on their insurance for buying the software. So, effectively, this is just a slightly indirect transfer from a gullible insurance company to a software company, but probably won't do much to actually stop people from yakking while driving. It's admirable to try to decrease dangerous driving habits, but this software is a gimmick, not a real safety technique.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    some old guy, Oct 17th, 2008 @ 3:49pm

    I still beg to differ

    I still beg to differ. I think this is a great tool to keep teens off the phone while driving. If you think you can otherwise convince them to do it for their own good, you clearly haven't been around enough teens lately.

    And yes, I would pay for the feature on my kids phones. Especially if it got me a discount on teen insurance.

     

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  2.  
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    A teen, Oct 17th, 2008 @ 3:56pm

    To many problems

    Great Idea, not going to work.

    So is this software installed on the phone? What happens when you are on a train, public bus, riding your bike, maybe even walking down the street? What happens when the car stops?

     

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  3.  
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    Michael Long, Oct 17th, 2008 @ 4:01pm

    Pet bugaboos

    This is actually one of my pet bugaboos, as I see it as a very short step from insurance companies offering "discounts" to begin charging exorbitant rates to those who're unwilling to submit to monitoring devices designed to "prove" you're a low risk.

    After all, if you're not willing to prove it, you MUST be unsafe, and charged accordingly. (A corollary of "innocent people have nothing to hide.") The problem, of course, is now the insurance companies are defining "safety" primarily in terms of minimizing their own risk, and penalizing those that exceed those limits.

    Health insurance is another area in which monitoring is set to take off big-time. Want low rates? Submit to daily WiFi-enabled urine tests that prove you're not snacking on bacon and other unapproved "high-risk" foods.

     

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  4.  
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    Noah, Oct 17th, 2008 @ 4:16pm

    Re: Too many problems

    And what happens if you're a passenger?

     

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  5.  
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    m, Oct 17th, 2008 @ 4:18pm

    Re: I still beg to differ

    And the kids would not turn it off why?

     

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  6.  
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    Clueby4, Oct 17th, 2008 @ 4:32pm

    So what Insurance companies get to assume...

    that 100% of their customers have cell phones by default. Why do I get the feeling the real reason is that they're getting kickbacks form the software sales. Is the concept patented?

    This it's almost as bad as their BS about pulling credit reports because the obtusely claim it "affects" ones driving ability. Sounds nice for the soft headed but the real reason is so they call resell that credit data to 3rd parties.

     

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  7.  
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    Gryphon (profile), Oct 17th, 2008 @ 4:35pm

    I wonder if I get the discount?

    I'm wierd. I don't have a cell phone anymore (got rid of it a year ago) and have never had a wired phone.

    So, since I can 100% guarantee that I won't make any calls while driving, I wonder if I can get the discount?

     

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  8.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 17th, 2008 @ 4:53pm

    So, since I can 100% guarantee that I won't make any calls while driving, I wonder if I can get the discount?

    No because you have proved that you are unsafe by not having adequate safety equipment in tour car. You can not call 911 in an emergency.

     

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  9.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 17th, 2008 @ 4:56pm

    Re: I still beg to differ

    I still beg to differ. I think this is a great tool to keep teens off the phone while driving. If you think you can otherwise convince them to do it for their own good, you clearly haven't been around enough teens lately.

    And yes, I would pay for the feature on my kids phones. Especially if it got me a discount on teen insurance.


    You really think kids can't find a way around a cheesy product like this? Most kids operate at a technical level of a decade or more ahead of their parents. You show me a system and I'll show you kids who have already figured it out and beaten it.

    It comes down to parents enforcing it, not relying on others and software to do it for you. Oh and while you are at it, teach your kids to actually drive, not just the "rules" for driving. It would be great to have drivers that actually know what to do during bad weather, how to merge, and how to handle a vehicle correctly rather than what we have currently.

     

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  10.  
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    Gryphon (profile), Oct 17th, 2008 @ 5:00pm

    Re: Discount

    But if I just lie and tell them I installed the software, then I still get the discount! Bonus!

    Now I just need a phone number. What's yours?

     

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  11.  
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    Eric the Grey, Oct 17th, 2008 @ 5:19pm

    So now we know who's behind the software?

    It sounds pretty convenient that one national insurance company jumps on board with this the day after it was announced. Sounds to me like someone is getting kickbacks...



    EtG

     

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  12.  
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    No Sixpack, Oct 17th, 2008 @ 5:31pm

    Do the Math

    It doesn't even pay for its self.
    Lets say you pay $600 a year for car insurance. FTA sayes you will get 3 to 10 percent discount for signing up, which cost $ 10 and $15 per month. So lets be generous and assume the full 10% which gives you $60 per year discount, but it costs you twice that for the service. The only way this would pay is if you are under 25 or have a very bad record.

    Also, as pointed out already, those who do not own a cell phone are discriminated against.

     

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  13.  
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    justanother yoyo, Oct 17th, 2008 @ 6:21pm

    Just another excuse to raise rates on the majority of policyholders who see this for what it is & not a serious deterrant to car phone distractions. What about 911 calls?
    I'm not someone who converses while driving but pressing a steering wheel button to speak for less than a minute to get or give an important message should not keep your eyes off the road & if you're that easily distracted, then alot less than a cellphone will drive you off the road ie. loud noises, lights, etc... all a part of street driving. In that case you're a hazard without a phone & shouldn't be driving at all. Only one test should be used to lower insurance premiums: no accidents. period.. What politician will take this on before 11/4 I wonder?

     

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  14.  
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    See the Truth, Oct 18th, 2008 @ 11:48am

    The insurance company is simply doing this so that when the software is deactivated and the person is talking on their phone and gets into an accident, the company will not pay as they breached the contract. I HATE insurance companies...

     

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  15.  
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    Lawrence D'Oliveiro, Oct 18th, 2008 @ 4:56pm

    Re: I wonder if I get the discount?

    Gryphon wrote:

    I'm wierd. I don't have a cell phone anymore (got rid of it a year ago) and have never had a wired phone.

    No, that means you're not wired.

     

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  16.  
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    Lawrence D'Oliveiro, Oct 18th, 2008 @ 4:58pm

    Capitalism In Action

    Like I said before, this works because money is changing hands. Simply telling people not to answer their phones doesn't involve money changing hands, so nobody's going to do it. "Gimmick" or not, that's how capitalism works.

     

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  17.  
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    MrScott, Oct 19th, 2008 @ 11:22am

    Roadside Distractions?

    Since we're on the subject of "distractions" while you drive, what about the biggest distraction of all while you're behind the wheel of your car?

    It's called the roadside advertisement sign. You've all seen them. Brightly colored to stand out from the normal colors of the road and hillsides. Advertising everything from auto insurance to the nearest McDonalds. Big 20' by 30' signs and larger. And it's not bad enough for the advertisements to be there in the first place, they've got to have several sentences for you to read while you're driving by them, making you take your eyes off the road, and the traffic in front of you. Dangerous??? I think so.

    Granted, you HAVE to have the interstate and state road signs there to guide you to where you need to go, but you just glance at them. But do you have to have a bunch of two, three or even four signs bundled together every 1/4 mile or so to make you take your eyes off the road? I think not.

    The less distractions along the roadside, the better. Don't force us to look at your advertisement while we're driving. This is where we need to stay focused on the road and the traffic, not where to save money on our car insurance.

     

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  18.  
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    Derek Kerton (profile), Oct 20th, 2008 @ 3:52pm

    It's Not About Insurance, It's About Safety

    I should disclose that I am on the Board of Advisors for Aegis, so I have bias, but I'm also informed and able to clear up some of the misconceptions here.

    Aegis, which built the technology behind this, has thought through pretty much all of the issues that Mike has against it, and also all the "gotchas" that are listed in the comments.

    There are no kickbacks. Get the conspiracy theorists a warm cup of soup so they can mellow out. Insurance companies also offer discounts for good grades - do you also think that schools are offering them kickbacks? But yes, there is a business model developing among wireless carriers, Aegis, and customers who choose the service. Insurance companies are not likely to be in the model directly, but their discounts are something Aegis has worked tirelessly to convince them to offer. Obviously it benefits Aegis, and getting this level of endorsement is an immense step forward.

    Aegis' service will be sold through wireless carriers, targeted at parents of teens and employers of a driving field force. These two groups pay the insurance premiums, and the full costs of any "distracted driver" accidents.

    In the last post at Techdirt on the subject, I commented "Insurance firms are very much on board with this service, and are likely to offer discounted premiums to families/companies who can prove they subscribe." I'm quite disappointed that Mike doesn't seem to have read that comment. I couldn't disclose the Nationwide announcement, and don't suppose that Nationwide is the only insurance firm on board.

    The service's method is to re-route calls politely with a recorded agent (IVR) when the person is driving. This prevents the distracting ring, interruption, conversation, fumbling for a headset, etc. As people above have indicated, often compulsion drives the 'ring->answer' response, not good judgement. Aegis allows the bill payer to supply their judgement to the 'answer' decision.

    But what if the driver is in an emergency situation, and needs to make/take a call? Or what if you are simply a passenger? Well, of course there is an 'over-ride' feature that will allow users to place AND receive calls. The catch is that using the over-ride will trigger an SMS or other message to the bill payer. Absolute power to place or take a call always remains with the phone holder, but they are accountable. And, NO, kids will not be able to game the system because they are technical "wizzes". This isn't a Playstation with cheat codes, and it's not even resident on the phone itself - it's in the telecom network.

    I understand that many have an initial negative reaction to "their calls getting diverted". When I first met the Aegis founders three years ago, I cringed at their idea. I thought "You're going to go into cellular companies and try to convince them to offer a service that reduces people's use of cellphones?" But they convinced me of the business model, and they have done yeoman's work to get endorsements from major insurance brands, the NHTSA, and a multitude of other highway safety advocacy groups. So now carrier's have a target market: parents and employers, they have a safety-raising product that insurance companies support with direct discounts. That's an innovative product with a good business model and a real shot at succeeding. Any business is a gamble, but succeed or fail, isn't Aegis the kind of innovation that Techdirt is supposed espouse?

    BTW, on the last Techdirt post about this, comments #
    2, 4, 6, 10, 18, 20, 25, 30, 33, 35
    all supported the Aegis idea as having appeal. That's a very high number, especially based on a Techdirt post that positioned the idea very negatively. Sounds like a market...

    Derek Kerton,
    Occasional Techdirt Blogger
    Telecom Consultant
    www.kertongroup.com

     

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  19.  
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    Derek Kerton (profile), Oct 21st, 2008 @ 1:45pm

    Stats To Back Up My Position

    Anyone here that would have preferred that this locomotive driver used the Aegis service?

    http://tech.yahoo.com/news/nm/20081021/tc_nm/us_workplace_texting_3

    The link also has staggering stats on the variety of activities during which people text or email. Aegis also intercepts SMS text messages, though the current version does not do email, since email is a less immediate, less intrusive (it doesn't ring) communication medium.

     

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  20.  
    icon
    Derek Kerton (profile), Oct 21st, 2008 @ 1:45pm

    Stats To Back Up My Position

    Anyone here that would have preferred that this locomotive driver used the Aegis service?

    http://tech.yahoo.com/news/nm/20081021/tc_nm/us_workplace_texting_3

    The link also has staggering stats on the variety of activities during which people text or email. Aegis also intercepts SMS text messages, though the current version does not do email, since email is a less immediate, less intrusive (it doesn't ring) communication medium.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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