What do you think about a “black box” for your car? Good or bad idea?

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The above clip from Modern Marvels is a great bit showing just how strong an airline’s “black box” is. They can take an amazing amount of punishment and survive to tell what happened to an airline before an accident.

Well now Progressive Insurance has a “black box” you can install, willingly, in your car. They say it only records and requires a few bits of data like:

  • Are willing to plug the device in their vehicle for six months.
  • Drive their vehicle less than 15,000 miles per year.
  • Don’t frequently drive between midnight and 4 a.m.
  • Don’t frequently brake hard.

They also say that there is NO WAY this can be used to increase your rates, and if your little “black box” sends back good data to the mother insurance ship, you could get a nice discount on your auto policy.

I have seen commercials for this little gadget a few times and it really bothers me. I mean a LOT! Being a computer geek I know how much/little control we already have of all of our data on the web. I even got my last passport early so I could avoid a few years with an RF ID chip in it (now I do have GOES / TSA Pre, but still).

This type of gadget, just makes my blood boil. No matter what the company says, they could always, when you do a 6 month upload, re-flash the unit to get MORE info and just how would you know? How would you know if they do decide to dump you or after a crash look at the data and say we are not going to cover you due to the fact that you were reckless!

We can go the other way too. Why not put them in ALL cars as well as a breathalyzer so no one who ever drinks and drives can start the car and anyone who the chip says drives bad just gets to stay home and we all save a TON of money?

What do you think? Does this creep you out? Do you like the idea? Would you put one in your car? – René

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  1. It’s a win-win for them. Either they know you drive safe and you’re profitable for them, otherwise they know not to have you as a customer or give you “un-discounted” rates. And if they get a critical mass of users they can monitor, then they can say your rate can only decrease if you get one.

    Being a computer geek you probably know that cars equipped with OnStar already have “black boxes” anyway. A few years ago I read about an insurance claim that was being denied because insurance company was able to use the car info that showed the car was speeding and doing quick lane changes before it crashed. This only works in some states, but I find it ridiculous that after I paid a car company money for their product they would record something that would be used against me.

  2. I feel the same way about this as I do about things like mandatory drug testing for welfare recipients. If you are up in arms against it, chances are you stand to lose the most from it…

  3. With technology as cheap as it is, I’d be in favor of all these things. All cars should have multiple cameras (front, back, interior) and sensors recording speed and acceleration. To protect privacy, the information recorded could only be used after an accident to establish causes and fault. If you wanted to voluntaryily give information to an insurance company to lower rates that is fine too, but not mandatory. I think we would quickly see much safer driving and appropriately priced insurance.

  4. I just spent 6 months with it plugged into my Jeep. The distance between my work and home is only 5 miles with a few stops in between. I am on the road for business one week a month. I only put about 8,000 miles a year on it or less. I received a letter from them two weeks ago saying I didn’t qualify for the additional discount because I hard brake too often. Their definition of a hard brake is when you slow down faster 7 mph a second. Over the course of the 6 months I could track my progress online and I found that I if I started slowing from a major distance I could actually go a day without “hard braking”. It really didn’t happen by accident, I had to consciously make the effort. Overall, I’m glad it is over and now and I’m back flowing with the regular traffic.

  5. I have one in my car from Progressive and it has already given me a preliminary discount. To get full discount, you must have it on your for 75 days and I have about 20 days left. My projected discount is 23% – which sounds great, except for the fact that Progressive raised my rate almost 20% last term. (No accidents, claims, tickets or anything and they jacked up my rate 20%!)

  6. I think the black box is a great idea. My reason is this. A few years ago, the car I was driving, lost power steering while driving at speed on a highway. This caused me to temporarily lose control and kiss the guardrail. The woman I was with witnessed the whole incident. When I reported this to the insurance they could see no reason that the car would have done this. As a result, all repairs were incurred by me. With a black box, this would have been resolved. I see no problem, unless you are doing something illeagal.

  7. Once they get you to try it, if you don’t like it ( it costs you more because of bad driving habits) even if you switch insurance companies, they will share the info with other companies, no matter what, its there to make them money.


    I don’t think the system monitors the system that was defective in your case, at most engine speed, travel speed, and maybe built in gps.

  8. This is terrible unless you are a by the book driver. I believe then that your driving habits don’t increase your rates…they increase everyone’s if you are like me and are the occasional speedy driver.

  9. Rene, I’m going to be honest with you. I hate the Pacific Northwest. This place is off the rails nutty (keep Portland Weird: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Keep_Portland_Weird, Portlandia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Portlandia_%28TV_series%29).
    In the same vein of this tracking device, the fine rules of the PacNW think it is a good idea to tax based on mileage driven, since their campaigns for hybrid/electric cars is successful and gas taxes are declining (especially here).
    A mileage based tax is fine to me, but how would they accurately track it? Well, the answer is kin to the Progressive black box: Washington, Oregon Consider Mileage-Based Road Tax (http://www.opb.org/news/article/n3-washington-oregon-consider-mileage-based-road-tax/).
    With this little State mandated (no other option big brother tracking device), they will be able to get the same info and more without our consent.
    Yep, it’s coming whether we like it or not; whether you choose the Progressive option or not. If I have to choose, though, I’d rather have On Star, since at least it can send help in case of an accident and their call centers are in Canada, which may offer some additional protections (privacy maybe?).
    On a lighter note, I don’t think cars have enough plugs to handle all the tracking devices we will eventually need to plug into the onboard computer.

  10. “Nick E says:
    February 28, 2013 at 7:48 am
    I feel the same way about this as I do about things like mandatory drug testing for welfare recipients. If you are up in arms against it, chances are you stand to lose the most from it…”
    “Ken L. says:
    February 28, 2013 at 8:05 am
    …I see no problem, unless you are doing something illeagal.”
    While this may seem overly dramatic, freedom is a very tenuous thing, which many societies had but lost in a relatively short time mainly due to small changes that ‘seemed ok and wouldn’t affect much’ at the time.
    Throughout the history of mankind, people spent more time under subjugation than as free men and women, which is why the United States is such a unique experiment that continues today.
    While I agree adding these devices to our cars to track our movements isn’t significant to our current daily lives, and may even be a positive in the span of our life, it is one less freedom we are surrendering that could collectively impact the lives our kids or grandkids. As an example, the baby boomers didn’t consider this until late in their lives (40+), and now they are about to retire with a reduced safety net to handle the population.
    In the end our actions today have an impact on the lives of others tomorrow, so while putting a small device in our cars now to save a few bucks on insurance may be innocuous, what if car manufactures simply included them with the cars of the future? There would be no choice to opt out then, while providing more information than you really want to give.

  11. Ummm Big brother is watching as a matter of fact we all are watching you and know when you are gone. It would not be that hard to figure out where you live and stop by when you are gone. I think that is way more creepy

  12. the black box [stinks] and so doers progressive(the ceo gives too much $$$for obama’s campaign so ity is natural that they want to help big brother watch us… the night dives in gcm are out of this world

  13. and about mandatory drug testing for us worker bees legal for our employer but not if u are on welfare aclu says u cannot drug test to get the FREE $$$$ ONLY if u are working for ur $$$$ very special the libs win again

  14. @all about dives – my HUGE thanks. Also thanks for feedback on the Progressive device! I know this was a hot button issue and I thank you all for your feedback. It mean a ton! – rene

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