Why Confused.com is trying to put a back-seat driver into everyone’s car

July 24, 2012

Fit a black box in your car and slash those top-heavy insurance premiums at a stroke. That’s the intriguing new pitch from Confused.com, one of the UK’s biggest price comparison services.

Apparently, the European Court of Justice has ruled that from December 21st, 2012, car insurance premiums must be gender-neutral. Which is bad news if you are a 22-year-old female driver of spotless record, because you’ll now be subsidising all those 19-year-old acned, testosterone-junkies who treat driving as a form of personal combat. Car insurers are therefore on the hunt for new ways of assessing risk.

Such as through telematic devices fitted in your car to monitor driving performance. Telematics? Generally, any form of inbuilt electronic servo, such as SatNav, in-car entertainment centres and plumbed in mobile units. They’re particularly big in the States, although ironically regulators there are now voicing concerns about how many accidents they cause.

That’s clearly not the branch of the science Confused.com has in mind. Rather, your car will have a purpose-built in-board computer constantly monitoring fuel-consumption, mileage driven and how harshly you corner, accelerate and brake.

The idea is that the insurance provider fits this device free of charge to its customer’s car. The better the driving, the greater the chance of premium reductions on renewal. Customers who use the device can also monitor their driving manner online through a secure personalised portal.

As an additional safety benefit, the telematics device will inform the insurance company of an accident, and may even contact the emergency services where necessary. In addition, the device acts as a tracker, meaning the car can be located if stolen.

Confused.com reckons it has got 5 insurance companies signed up already: insurethebox, Autosaint, Coverbox, AA Drivesafe and Bell. It’s running a 30-second TV ad – produced in house – to announce the fact this week.

Intelligent individual mass-marketing in the digital age, or Big Brother at the wheel? We leave you to decide. LOVE to show you the ad, but I’m afraid it’s not up on the Confused.com site yet. So here’s a rather pedestrian infomercial instead:


Regulator cracks down on car makers living in Cloud Cuckoo land

June 11, 2011

The time when the car was simply an internal combustion engine on four rubber tyres that got you from A to B has long since passed. Now it’s a mobile computer, equipped with cloud technology that maps your route automatically, gives you business listings, traffic information, sports news, stock market prices, local petrol station locations, cinema listings, reads out your email and text messages, and much more besides.

No self-respecting car marque is without its patent system. Ford has Sync, General Motors has OnStar. And even Hyundai is about to bring out its own market-challenging product, Blue Link – whose maker ATX also supplies BMW and Toyota.

Hyundai Velostar: One of the first models to get the Blue Link cloud technology launched next year

It’s easy to see why they are so popular. Customers love the gadgets, the systems give the car brand an extra cutting edge, and there’s a tasty aftermarket as well. Some car-makers charge a hefty annual rental for the services. OnStar, for example, costs up to $300. And, while we’re there, let’s not forget the commercial value of local search and location-finding services. Groupons at your local service station anyone?

Unfortunately, automobile telematics – as they are known in the business – are also killers. The top US safety regulator, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, reckons that every year thousands of motorists and their passengers end up in the morgue because of needless driver distraction. And what’s more it intends to douse the white heat of technological advancement with some very cold water.

Like Daniel striding among the lions, the NHTSA’s top man David Strickland chose the Telematics Detroit 2011 conference to put this unholy alliance of car and software manufacturers on notice:

“A car is not a mobile device… I’m not in the business of helping people Tweet better… We will not take a backseat while new telematics and infotainment systems are introduced. There is too much distraction of drivers,” he told a dismayed audience.

Wherever the regulator in the top automotive market goes, you can be sure the rest of the world will soon follow.


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