At first glance, the new telematics system developed by State Farm Insurance and Hughes Telematics, called In-Drive, looks like a good thing, especially to parents. It offers the same emergency crash response, roadside assistance and stolen vehicle location service as competitors like OnStar, but for a lot less money. You can even get vehicle diagnostic alerts and service reminders, and parents can use it to track where a car is driven, or at what speed. If owners can get data on locations and speeds, doesn’t that mean that your insurance company can, too?
Indeed it does, and here’s where In-Drive takes a turn to the dark side. Opt to participate in a voluntary program, and State Farm will monitor your driving habits, just like Progressive Insurance does with its “Snapshot” program. The In-Drive system will record data on your mileage, cornering, acceleration, speed and time of day you’re behind the wheel, reporting it to State Farm. Initial program members will save approximately 10 percent on their insurance premiums, but the discount will range from 3 to 20 percent once enough data is gathered on your habits. Your reviewed for renewal every six months, which has a very ominous ring to it.
Does this mean that State Farm can and will cancel you policy if it feels you’re not a “safe” driver? I couldn’t find a clear answer to that question on State Farm’s website, so I suspect the answer is “yes.” That’s exactly why I’d never participate in such a program; I enjoy driving, which means using all of a vehicles available acceleration, braking and corning ability. To State Farm, I’m an uninsurable menace to society, despite the fact that I’ve driven for decades and hundreds of thousands of miles without a ticket, accident or insurance claim. If you ask me, I’m safer than 90 percent of the drivers on the road, because I pay attention when I’m driving. I don’t text, eat, shave, apply makeup or read the newspaper behind the wheel, but slow drivers who do would probably be seen as safe by In-Drive.
State Farm has other Drive Safe and Save programs linked to OnStar. For now, In-Drive is only available in Illinois, but On-Star linked programs are available for drivers in California, Colorado, Ohio and Texas. If you’re interested in being a laboratory rat, you can find details on the State Farm website. For the rest of us, it’s time to be afraid: these programs are voluntary now, but how much longer will it be until they’re mandatory for all drivers?