Big Brother or Big Helper?

By | June 3, 2013

A new technology that allows users to track a driver’s mobile phone usage could give fleet managers another tool in the battle against distracted driving.

Cellcontrol, the maker of technology to stop distracted driving, says DriveID can block anyone who is in the driver’s seat from trying to use a cell phone that has been registered with the service.

The new product only applies its safety controls to the driver’s mobile devices while behind the wheel, leaving passengers free to talk, text, email and browse.

The Baton Rouge, La.-based company says fleet companies are flocking to the technology to reduce liability presented by employee drivers.

Is big brother technology a good thing for the insurance industry?

“Fleets are now utilizing this technology to protect themselves,” Joe Breaux, chief technology officer for Cellcontrol, told Insurance Journal. “Our bread and butter is in fleet sales.”

DriverID is set to be released during the second half of 2013. Consumers and fleet administrators can purchase the solar-powered DriveID standalone device, which is placed on a vehicle’s windshield and will integrate with Cellcontrol’s non-pairing Bluetooth technology to enforce usage policy, score usage, or audit usage of only the driver’s phone.

“Hours of service” is a big purchase motivator for fleets since laws restrict drivers from being behind the wheel to a certain amount of time each day. To report drive time behind the wheel, drivers currently use a key fob, or a device where they manually punch in the key code to ensure they are the one driving. Cellcontrols’ technology does that for them, according to Breaux.

Breaux also envisions the new product as being attractive to companies who have drivers paired up on long haul truck trips. It will enable whoever’s driving to have their cell phone blocked and the passenger can be on the phone while waiting their turn in the driver’s seat.

Insurers also have an interest in the new product, he says.

With the addition of DriveID, Cellcontrol provides greater accuracy required for user-based insurance (UBI) programs and more distracted driving intelligence, according to the company. “The future of UBI and distracted driving prevention relies on intelligent driver identification — and we’ve accomplished just that with DriveID,” Breaux said.

Breaux said Cellcontrol has partnered with several “top 10 insurance companies,” which he declined to name. To date, the only agreements made public have been between the company and Esurance, and Quincy, Mass.-based Arbella Insurance.

Insurance companies can opt to use the device simply in audit mode, collecting information on which to base assessments of driver habits. They can also use it to block cell usage by drivers.

Is big brother technology a good thing for the insurance industry? You decide.

About Andrea Wells

Andrea Wells is a veteran insurance editor and Editor-in-Chef of Insurance Journal Magazine. More from Andrea Wells

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