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New driver-snooping satnav could push down UK insurance premiums

TomTom signs up with Motaquote to stuff spy in GPS box

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The idea has been hovering in the ether for some time, but TomTom is the first satnav firm to sign on the dotted line and bring insurance to drivers through their GPS.

The Dutch company has joined up with Motaquote insurers to offer UK drivers "Fair Pay" insurance, where customers pay lower premiums because their satnav monitors how they're driving.

"Our entry in the insurance market with our proven fleet management technology puts us at the forefront of a move that could help to revolutionise the motor insurance industry," Thomas Schmidt, managing director of TomTom Business Solutions, said in a canned statement.

The idea is simple. Any driver that considers themselves to be a safe one signs on with Fair Pay and is given a specially developed TomTom PRO 3100 satnav. This GPS box includes "Active Driver Feedback" and "LIVE services". The latter will alert the motorist to upcoming traffic issues (presumably to stop them slamming into the back of a long queue that has formed).

The feedback system will let the driver know when they're not being quite as safe as they think they are, such as when they corner harshly or have to brake suddenly, presumably by yelling "Oy! That kind of driving will cost you 10p a minute, mate!" or something to that effect.

Assuming the customer is actually a safe driver, then their premiums will be charged accordingly, rather than being based on things like their postcode, gender, age or vehicle type.

"We've dispensed with generalisations and said to our customers, if you believe you're a good driver, we'll believe you and we'll even give you the benefit up front… unlike some other telematics-based schemes where you may have to prove your ability over a number of months," said Nigel Lombard, MD of Fair Pay Insurance.

The Fair Pay insured will also have a tracking unit fitted to their cars, which will allow "driver behaviour and habits to be monitored".

"The telematics box (TomTom LINK – which is fitted within the dashboard) records the driving data," a Fair Pay spokesperson told The Register.

"This, via Bluetooth, transfers data to the in-car TomTom navigation device and also feeds back data to the consumer dashboard. This enables drivers to also get real-time feedback, which we believe to be a unique offer in the personal motor insurance telematics market."

The website does imply that this tracking won't include "singing along to the radio loudly and out of tune" behaviour or "using the back seat of your car for a purpose other than that intended" behaviour; the tracker is only interested in car-owners' safe driving, speed and mileage.

The data will be collated in the aforementioned online dashboard so that users can get an idea of their own style of driving, and could also be used anonymously for traffic analysis.

Tying insurance into safe driving while also slurping lots of lovely traffic data is a canny move for satnav companies, which need to broaden their horizons somewhat now that smartphones come packing passable navigation apps. ®

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