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Car 9076B, Where Are You?
Drivers who swear they're little old ladies from Pasadena may get a chance to prove that they drive their buggies only to church. The catch? You have to let your insurance company track your car everywhere you drive it.
Progressive Casualty Insurance Co., based in a Cleveland suburb, is trying to live up to its name. It's preparing to test consumers' willingness to swap privacy for discounts. The offering: a global positioning device that transmits occasional reports of where the car is. That way, your premium can be based on the actual risk of where and when you travel. A pilot program is under way in Houston. If successful, that could mean lower rates. Now, insurers base rates on where customers live and on statistics telling how much they are apt to drive--and where.
Of course, Progressive can keep a very close eye on you. But the company insists the point isn't to monitor policyholders but to justify cheaper rates. All the data is protected by encryption. Besides, if you happen to get lost in the wrong part of town, at least your global positioning device can help get you home.By Peter Galuszka