Insurer to monitor drivers via cell phone data

January 7, 2018

First, there were insurance companies using dongles — devices that plug into your car’s data port and transfer vehicle information like acceleration and braking data to your phone, which then relays it to insurance companies. Now, one insurer is taking things a step further and directly monitoring cell phone data when assessing a customer’s rate.

Arity, which spun off from Allstate in 2016, collects the data from 1.1 million drivers for both Allstate and Esurance who chose to opt-in to a program that offers a discount in exchange for the data. Should that data indicate safe driving, it could result in lower premiums for those drivers. The company is currently in discussions with other insurers to expand the program.

Unlike the earlier programs that looked at the severity of throttle and brake pedal application to gauge how aggressive a driver is, Arity’s program also includes the time of day and even the location to get a more full representation of the liability a given driver poses.

In an interview with the Chicago Tribune, Arity president Gary Hallgren said, “Someone driving on the interstate in dry weather in the middle of the day is a different level of risk than someone driving in downtown Chicago in the snow at night, headed to a bar.”

According to Hallgren, Arity’s intended uses for the data go beyond simply identifying high-risk drivers. He points to the opportunity to provide individualized coaching to educate drivers as to what they are and are not doing well, not unlike a few apps already on the market. He also wants to see it expand into a public rating system for Uber and Lyft drivers.

“I want my shared mobility driver to have four stars because that individual is indeed a good driver,” he said, “and not just that his car didn't smell and he gave me a mint when I got out.”

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