GPS pay-as-you-go for cheaper car insurance or big brother passenger?


Norwich Union have introduced a scheme where drivers pay for their insurance monthly based on when, where and how many miles they drive, as well as their age/status, rather than on an annual rate based more on the driver than the driving. (Update: I saw this today on the news though I’ve since seen it’s been in use since January 2005.)

Once they’ve paid £50 to get a GPS chip fitted to their car, their journeys can be monitored to see what types of road they drive on, and whether they drive at peak or off-peak times. This then generates a price per mile which is totalled on their monthly bill.

Examples of pricing might be 1p per mile for off-peak motorway driving for 24-65 year olds, up to £1 a mile for the (oh so dangerous) under 24s driving at night.

I can see some benefits to the scheme:

* low-mileage and off-peak drivers may pay less than under their fixed annual insurance.
* environmentally, it may make people consider if the car is the best way to complete their journey.
* might reduce peak journeys for those that don’t have to drive then (if the queues don’t put them off, the cost might)

On the other hand, there are some concerns:

* this box will effectively know everything about where, when and how you drive. Possibly worrying depending upon who has access to the information.
* Those outside urban areas without good public transport, or who work out of hours, may be forced to pay more when they have no transport choice.
* What about multiple drivers of the same vehicle?

Of course it’s worth noting that this is just one scheme, currently in trial, offered by one insurance company, but given the way society seems to be going, it wouldn’t surprise me if it becomes more commonplace.

I know people who say that Big Brother isn’t a problem if you haven’t done anything wrong, but I still wouldn’t want people knowing exactly how I drive, when and where I am. Would you?

Presumably, the data could also be used when an accident has occurred, apportioning blame accordingly.

What’s next in our chip’n’pin society? We have pay-as-you-go mobile phones, car insurance, ‘pay-as-you-throw’ refuse disposal, water meters… Some schemes more invasive than others, of course, but is Big Brother creeping in more than we’d like?


Andy Merrett
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