Spying on your life or saving your life?

Over in AutoSavant you can enjoy a dose of scare mongering about a device to meter driver behavior for PAYD insurance.  Any device that monitors, views, films, captures, measures, listens, collects, or sniffs data about anything humans do seems to be fodder for phobic journalism and paranoid commenters. PAYD insurance indeed has privacy issues.  But they are addressable.
The real reason for PAYD insurance is to distribute risk more fairly for drivers and more manageably for insurance companies (right now your zip code is used (among other things) to help assess your risk profile). In addition to tentatively threatening privacy and increasing affordability for more than 50% of drivers, PAYD insurance also enhances safety, and reduces vehicle miles traveled (VMT).
Unfortunately, instead of discussing privacy, cost, safety and VMT in a balanced fashion (which I would say should be about 5%, 25%, 50% and 20% respectively, this journalist weighed these four matters at 90%, 10%, 0% and 0%. This is to do a huge disservice to his readers.
When I read the article there were 39 comments. 54% were against the PAYD device (stoked by the writers privacy fears), 28% were for the device for reasons of fairness, safety or cost savings and 18% were neutral or incoherent. Statistically speaking, these 39 commenters are somewhat smarter than the journalist (usually only extreme opinions show up in these open forums).
Technology has been extending average life spans for many hundreds of years. Medical advances (e.g., near-mandatory vaccination programs) come to mind. Not long ago, seat belts were considered an invasion of privacy, now a majority of us put them on without thinking about it. Tonight I was stopped in a mandatory alcohol check-point. I was asked if had anything to drink this night. Was that an unfair imposition on me? (I drink a glass of wine once a month and had none this night.) I have been twice sniffed by narcotics detection dogs while in airports.  Another privacy invasion?
Driving safer saves lives. About half of the victims of road accidents were driving comparatively safely. Progressive's program may save opt-ins a couple hundred dollars, and it also saves lives. Anyone with a family member killed by another driver would applaud this form of insurance; many with a family member who has killed someone in an accident might also consider this a good idea. 15 years ago I had a brother-in-law who took his own life a few weeks after killing someone in an auto accident.
Compare how many Americans have been entrapped in a legal matter unrelated to road use with evidence provided by tolling data or automotive insurance data vs how many innocent Americans are disabled or dead because of automobile accidents.
A similar product to Progressive’s, available in Australia, (betterdriver dot com dot au) promises to save teen lives. Here the party watching is the teen’s parents. Big Daddy if not Big Brother. Fewer complaints, it seems, because they are our kids.
The key issue is NOT the metering of driving behaviour, it is the USE of that data. There must be strong, and strongly upheld, legislation that this data only be used for the purpose of fair insurance pricing and safety. The readers who comment: “you are being monitored” may be right, but it is not the monitoring that is harmful, it is the potential for abuse. We need to address the potential for abuse, rather than reject a powerful tool for automotive safely.

1 comment:

Michael Graham said...

Hi Bern

Scary stats here for the US and they are mirrored everywhere.

Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death among those age 5-34 in the U.S. More than 2.3 million adult drivers and passengers were treated in emergency departments as the result of being injured in motor vehicle crashes in 2009. The economic impact is also notable: the lifetime costs of crash-related deaths and injuries among drivers and passengers were $70 billion in 2005. (source CDC)

Michael Graham
Director BetterDriver Pty Ltd
Sydney Australia