I know you're not meant to answer a rhetorical question, but Mark Hooson asks so many in his recent piece on telematics insurance that I'm driven (ha ha) to answer at least one of them. “Is it all a bit Big Brother?” the article asks. No. It isn't.
For a start, Big Brother doesn't really
exist. Actually, the fictional Big Brother doesn't even exist in the story of
1984. The point of Orwell's novel is to warn us of the dangers of
totalitarianism, and especially the use of language to disguise and promote
evil. Telematics has nothing to say on these topics.
Second, telematics is not a form of
surveillance for control purposes. It's a smart means of measurement.
Telematics solutions deliver objective evidence that can make the insurance
process more accurate, and potentially give us safer roads. Big Brother wants
your soul. Telematics wants to save your life.
Hooser stresses that telematics is – so far
– a voluntary option, but notes that it is becoming a standard feature on new
models. This seems to me beside the point. Wearing seatbelts used to be
voluntary, now it's mandatory. But wearing seatbelts has always been a
good idea. And it didn't suddenly become an imposition when, state by state, it
Last, I want to mention that the freedom of
the road is somewhat of an illusion. The independence of movement we enjoy with
our cars is already severely constrained. We have to drive on the right side of
the road and stop at red lights. We can't drive across someone's yard or take a
detour across a airport runway. We have to be insured. The list goes on.
I believe telematics is benign, and that telematics insurance is a great step forward for both industry and customer. The base technology is beginning to look like a necessary safety feature: “According to figures from the Co-operative and telematics provider Wunelli, 92% of telematics-enabled vehicles reported as stolen since 2012 have been recovered – with an average recovery time of three hours.” As insurers develop their telematics products, we'll see cheering figures about more accurate premiums, and reductions in accident severity.