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Telematics and the Remote Worker

Robert Regis Hyle | April 14, 2014

Until last September, I spent 15 years driving approximately 25 miles to work in the morning and another 25 home each night. There are plenty of people that have longer commutes than that, but that was more than enough for me.

Last fall, I began working out of my home so I was able to enjoy the long, harsh Midwestern winter from the comfort of a second-floor bedroom that I converted into an office. With snowy roads no longer a worry, I also was able to enjoy saving gas money and the wear-and-tear on my car.

Now that I have settled into my routine it occurs to me that after all the miles I have put in over the years I am suddenly an ideal candidate for usage-based insurance. Instead of putting 25,000 miles or more on my car each year I am now putting on about 1,000 per month. I drive short distances to shop, run errands and the normal trips that we all take.

I should be excited about the prospect of possibly saving money on my insurance, but the fact is I’m too much of a dinosaur to make the switch. Part of it is loyalty. I’ve had the same insurance carrier—home and auto—for most of my adult life.

I picked the carrier because I liked the agent (it’s a captive company) and stayed with them because 24 years ago when a storm blew the second floor of my house into my neighbor’s yard the claims experience I went through was the type of positive insurance experiences that any of us would hope to go through.

My carrier isn’t actively competing in the UBI market today, which surprises me a bit because I spend a lot of time listening to experts and writing articles on how insurers will be left behind their competition if they don’t offer some form of telematics. That may well be the case in a few years, though, and as we’ve seen too often, insurance companies are more reactive than proactive.

Some insurers claim they have a billion miles worth of data on driver history through their telematics systems. I’m not doubting their figures, but how much data do we really need to know who is a good risk and who’s a bad one.

Does this data tell you that the driver of another car is in the process of sending a text, or that a radio station was playing the wrong song, or that a few stray deer decided to act like the proverbial chickens and cross the road? Any of those scenarios can cause good drivers to break hard or to swerve their vehicle. Rare occasions like those won’t necessarily brand you a bad driver, but they don’t tell the whole story.

Time will tell if most people will surrender a bit more of their privacy to corporate America in the name of saving a few bucks. It is a tempting offer, but I’m glad for now that my insurer isn’t pushing me toward UBI. The savings may not match the privacy issues just yet, but I’m betting it won’t be long before they do and when that happens I’ll be even more grateful that I’m a remote worker.



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