Automakers want in on the highly lucrative big data game and Mitsubishi is willing to pay for the privilege. In exchange for running the risk of jacking up its customers’ insurance premiums, the car manufacturer is offering drivers $10 off of an oil change and other rewards. Consumers will have to decide if a gift card is worth giving up their privacy.
According to the Wall Street Journal, Mitsubishi’s new smartphone app is the first of its kind. A driver can sign up and allow their driving habits to be tracked by their phone’s sensors, which monitor data points like acceleration, location, and rotation. Along the way, they’ll earn badges (reward points) based on good driving practices like staying under the speed limit. For now, the badges can be exchanged for discounted oil changes or car accessories, but the company plans to expand its incentives to other small perks like free cups of coffee by the end of the year.
It may seem like a win-win situation: You pay a little more attention to being a good driver and you get a little bonus for your efforts. But the first customer for all that data is State Auto Insurance Companies, which will be using it to create better risk models and adjust users’ premiums accordingly. It doesn’t appear that the data will be anonymized because the Journal reports that, after a trial period, insurers will be able to build a customer risk profile on users of the app that will then be used to determine rates. We reached out to Mitsubishi to ask about its anonymization of data but didn’t receive an immediate reply.
Mike LaRocco, State Auto’s CEO, framed this as a benefit to consumers when speaking with the Journal. “They’ll get a much more accurate quote from day one,” he claimed. That might be true, but it does nothing to assuage fears that insurance companies could penalize drivers who don’t voluntarily give up their data.
Ford also has an app that shares data with insurance companies, but it’s not offering any of those sweet, sweet gift cards. And at a moment when many people are debating whether tech giants should be paying us for our data, one could argue that Mitsubishi is doing the right thing. But as car companies are building web connectivity into their new models, we could easily see this become standard practice without offering drivers a choice or a reward. A study by McKinsey & Co from 2016, estimated that monetizing car data could be worth between $450-750 billion by 2030. Of course, autonomous vehicles could become more prevalent by then. And as long as they work as promised, insurance companies will be less necessary.