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The Day My Car Ratted Me Out.
July 27, 2001 7:45 AM   Subscribe

The Day My Car Ratted Me Out.
Dear Winston Smith,
Your 1984 Corvette has informed us that over the past month, you have failed to obey the speed limit 36 times, at times reaching speeds exceeding 130 MPH. As A result, we feel that we can no longer provide you with coverage. We have also supplied this information to the proper authorities, their jackbooted thugs should be in your driveway momentarily. Thank you.
INGSOC Insurance

First it was the rental car companies, now it is GM and the Insurance companies. This is the top of a very slippery slope of privacy issues and technology, specifically GPS.

WAR IS PEACE, FREEDOM IS SLAVERY, and, IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH.
posted by hotdoughnutsnow (45 comments total)


 
Don't buy a GM car, then. Only a government can force you to. And if they do, THEN we'll be talking 1984.
posted by dagny at 7:58 AM on July 27, 2001


It sounds like the only thing the "OnStar" system won't do is ask me whether it'll dream or not.
posted by jamesstegall at 7:59 AM on July 27, 2001


this announcement brought to you by NitzerEbbProdukt.
posted by moz at 7:59 AM on July 27, 2001


Simple answer: $50 to your mechanic to disable the thing, or even better, $100 to one of the local teenage h4x0r's to reprogram it :) "Dear Mr. Fes: Our records indicate that you have never violated a speed limit or done anything that could possibly be construed as unsafe in your vehicle. In response, we are lowering your premiums...."

For every hack, there is a counter-hack :)
posted by UncleFes at 8:02 AM on July 27, 2001


Having just rid myself of a Chevy Tahoe, which was the worst vehicle I have ever owned. Total piece of crap. I sent an e-mail to GM stating that I would never own another GM car, nor would I even rent one. I don't know what was worse, the crappy car, or the really crappy service at the GM dealerships I dealt with over the 2 year period I had it. All in all, a very lame experience. My onstar exchange would read

Car "No! Please don't, don't light the match!! Please, be merciful...."

Me"DIE YOU PIECE OF SHIT!!!!! MUUUHAHAHAHAHAHA"

I am so much happier with my Honda Accord now. Reliable, great gas mileage, low stress.
posted by a3matrix at 8:08 AM on July 27, 2001


Um, did anyone here actually read the article?

The information would go to the insurance company, but only if the consumer wants in order to obtain lower premium rates... If you wouldn't want us to interact with the insurance company, we wouldn't do it

How is there any privacy issue here if the consumer controls who has access the info?
posted by dchase at 8:13 AM on July 27, 2001


I think that it is a slippery slope issue. First they get people used to the idea of having their driving tracked, and people subconsciously start to drive nicer so that they can get a lowered rate. Then the insurance companies all change their policies so that unless you are willing to provide the GPS information you automatically get their highest rate. Eventually everyone caves in and it becomes automatic.
posted by donkeymon at 8:17 AM on July 27, 2001


I had a Pontiac Firebird, for a while. Worst piece of shit I ever drove. No acceleration, the faux-leather dashboard cover cracked in about a million places, the ashtray was too shallow, the stock stereo sucked, the fuel injectors were forever clogging up, and the effing supercool hubcap thingees would fly off every time I'd leave a stoplight. I bet I bought four sets of those damnable hubcaps inside of 6 months.

Now I buy only German and Swedish cars - German for me, Swedish for my wife. You pay a bit extra, but the quality is worth it. Screw GM. And my insurance company, for the premiums I pay them, can go get their information elsewhere, the peckers.
posted by UncleFes at 8:22 AM on July 27, 2001


dchase:

> if the consumer controls who has access the info?

You really believe that?


hotdoughnutsnow:

> Your 1984 Corvette

How did this stuff get onto an '84 vette? Did they send ninja mechanics to come creeping around in the dark and retrofit it while you were sleeping?

I have a '78 jeep cj5 which is about as simple as a Model T (or a lawnmower) and I expect to continue driving the thing as long as I can get parts. The only way a satellite will be able to find it is if the optics get good enough to read the license tag.
posted by jfuller at 8:24 AM on July 27, 2001


Heh, dude, it's a 1984 'Vette :)
posted by UncleFes at 8:26 AM on July 27, 2001


I have to say, hotdougnuts, that was a pretty...um...alarmist post. I get the way the system resembles the telescreen, but otherwise the 1984 thing is kinda over the top, there.

That said: I agree with you (and donkeymon) -- there does seem to be a slippery slope issue here, and what's elided in the promise that it's totally voluntary and just for those who just drive to the corner and want lower rates, is that this could enable companies to offer competitive rates only to those who maintained very invasive reporting systems. In effect, you'd pay for privacy.

To me this all boils down to the insanity of having the insurance companies hardwired into our transit and healthcare systems. The whole profit motive of insurance is to gather as much info on the insured population as possible, so as to avoid risk or charge an arm and a leg to those who they conclude embody risk. Instead of building safer cars (or better still, safer and more efficient transport to replace cars) we have a highway system in which everybody takes enormous risk when they drive -- and support this with a massive industry to insure it. And this industry is always going to be deeply motivated to obviate privacy rights.
posted by BT at 8:29 AM on July 27, 2001


Exactly, this is sort of like refusing to take a drug test. Your refusal is seen as an admission of guilt, as though you have something to hide.

This has the potential to be used as a tool by the insurance companies to jack up rates for 'non-compliant' drivers. I seriously don't think that the companies are just going to lower rates for those who do opt in on this, they will make up the difference elsewhere. Plus, this information is not going to come to them free, so who is going to pay for it?

The 1984 vette was just irony. Everybody knows that an 84 vette can't get over 55 without blowing a gasket. As for your '78 CJ, well, we see that you left your lights on again...
posted by hotdoughnutsnow at 8:29 AM on July 27, 2001


'what is good for GM is good for the country.'(is this still valid?) The Tahoe blows cold, but shit, they call it the sucker-mobile, just looking at one should set off the shit alarm(shoulda bought a blazer) The accord is a wonderful car, glad you like it. wasnt disabling these GPS things discussed a few months ago. The pontiac 'Firechicken', the worlds worse sportscar. my gran prix has 200K plus miles, runs like a dream. Fes, i cant see you in a saab. but im glad the world is treating the fester family well enough to buy good cars.( no sarcasm)
posted by clavdivs at 8:32 AM on July 27, 2001


Now I buy only German and Swedish cars - German for me, Swedish for my wife. You pay a bit extra, but the quality is worth it. Screw GM.

I assume you're wife's driving a Volvo, because Saab is a GM brand. (And if she is, she's driving a Ford.)
posted by ljromanoff at 8:33 AM on July 27, 2001


you're

Make that 'your'. How embarrassing.
posted by ljromanoff at 8:37 AM on July 27, 2001


LJ: Yep, a Volvo. It's such a great solid box of a car, I wish I could mount a turret on it.

Your refusal is seen as an admission of guilt, as though you have something to hide.

True enough. But I think people fight this kind of thing the wrong way - head on. NEVER fight anything head on! When the insurance company says "we'd like some info, please," give it to them... only give them wrong info. Not wildly wrong, just a little wrong :) And everytime they ask for more, a little more wrong info. Nothing so crazy as that you can't deny it was a mistake - transpose a couple digits, be a little more free with your penmanship, mix up ssn's...

Same thing with everyone else - when someone asks for info, give them it all and MORE. And wrong to boot! Send your credit card bills in with $1.13 extra than you owe; sign your checks off-handed, or not at all; send back those spams, but from an email address you abandon; fake phone numbers, bad birthdates, erase marks, bribes to technicians, there are a million ways to confound the world. NEVER try to take it on face to face; always sleaze up on it, with smiles and politeness.
posted by UncleFes at 8:46 AM on July 27, 2001


Man, its all cool. I had a chip imbedded in my neck 4 months ago. Now when I walk into a room the lights adjust to my preference, McDonalds hands me the right burger w/o me even having to tell them what I want, the police can find me when I've been abducted, and even my wife can keep tabs on me (AND vice versa).. ah, technology.

YIKES.
posted by tomplus2 at 8:50 AM on July 27, 2001


> Heh, dude, it's a 1984 'Vette :)

Oh yeah. Sorry, 1984 seems so passé...
posted by jfuller at 9:01 AM on July 27, 2001


but im glad the world is treating the fester family well enough to buy good cars.( no sarcasm)

Well, I do OK, but I'm no millionaire, middle class burgher at best. But those German and Swede cars are not nearly as pricey as a lot of people make out. I mean, I work in the same office with someone who bought an American SUV for $43K (!!!); you can get an Audi A6 for $28K or so, some of your BMW coupes are significantly less than that - that's why you see so many of those Z3's scooting around.

And, you can get some GREAT deals on used foreign luxury cars if you are ready with the financing beforehand and you keep an eye out. It's not like buying your average used car, which are beat to shit; luxury cars tend to be better serviced and traded in earlier. You can get a two or three year old Volvo sedan (for example), still solidly in warrantee, for $20K-$25K pretty easily.

I think a lot of people immediately look discount European cars as too expensive without looking at them. You shouldn't; they are often more affordable than their reputations would suggest, especially used.
posted by UncleFes at 9:02 AM on July 27, 2001


Which all leads in a roundabout way to my admission that I am not so well off that I can just up to my local Mercedes dealer, plunk down my cash and drive out in a new SEL :) I do my homework and buy good used European cars.
posted by UncleFes at 9:07 AM on July 27, 2001


> You can get a two or three year old Volvo sedan (for
> example), still solidly in warrantee, for $20K-$25K pretty
> easily.

the CJ cost $3000 (plus $1200 for a complete engine remanufacture, essentially a shiny new engine.) No body work or paint needed, due to no dents and no rust. No need to worry about quality of service since there's no part of this dead-simple little gizmo I can't fix at home. I can't imagine paying over $5000 for a vehicle that doesn't have wings.
posted by jfuller at 9:27 AM on July 27, 2001


...that doesn't have wings... or leather, or turbo, or good mileage, or accurate speedo, or maintenance free, or warm in the winter, or doesn't fishtail on ice, or..

actually, I had a cj6, and LOVED it. too bad the frame got a bit rusty, b/c that 350 was sweet. loved it.
posted by tomplus2 at 10:20 AM on July 27, 2001


"How is there any privacy issue here if the consumer controls who has access the info?"

So you don't mind that you'll have to pay higher premiums to keep your entire driving history out of GM's (or the insurance company's) database.

Do you think the FBI will be refused access? The NSA?

FBI - "Can you tell us exactly where Jon Sullivan was at 9:17 on June 17th?"

GM - "Why yes, we can."
posted by y6y6y6 at 10:32 AM on July 27, 2001


my solution is simple...

drive a 77 VW bus - speeding is not a choice. ever since i traded in my 96 ford probe gt for my bus, i've been a much better driver. partly b/c it's slow as shit but also b/c you pay much more attention to driving when you are sitting on the front bumper. it's kinda like being the guys tied to the front of humungous' vehicle in the road warrior... and you saw what happened to them in a head on collision.

the issue is so ridiculous b/c it's not even about safety.
posted by ggggarret at 11:25 AM on July 27, 2001


"I do my homework" yep, if i had the financing(after business school it is "Fa-nance") thats the route id take. being a Chevy town, blazers and the Buick are the norm. foreign vehicles in this town until, 17 years ago where a hazzard to own, foreigh cars in the parking lot of THE PLANTS were routinely....well, you learned not to drive one. The UAW had signs at the union halls that foreigh BRAND cars would be towed away if found on premises(true and they would tow your car if you where lucky if you came to one for a union meeting) a friend of mine drove up to a union hall in his 56' mercades(during a twelve-step "event") said "anyone touch this car and (bleep) will look like fuckin chow food" in front of a union leader and all. The rule was laxed and the signs....? . Parts dont matter, labor dont matter. Who controls the name, who runs the board. Big 3 are global now. i dont know if anyone heard that. global in modular design, parts distribtion etc. The 87' firebird or camero(one with the first 3rd Tail-light) has an expensive replacement bulb(30$ even at a parts store i believe) but the housing unit was made in Italy. when i saw that, it was empirical evidense of out-sourcing, nothing new. what is new is the boards and the mergers etc. and it is really just starting in some aspects.
posted by clavdivs at 11:43 AM on July 27, 2001


Insurance companies already have ways of tracking your mileage. I received a small increase in my premiums for increased usage and driving. Usually you fill out how much you drive to work, etc. when you sign up for a policy. I had a claim for a cracked windshield and they took my mileage down at that time as well. The letter I received with this notice for the premium increase stated that they had adjusted it from a previous claim (which was also a broken windshield) from about 2 years ago. Subtract the mileage difference, divide by months passed = premium change.

Then again, I could just never report a claim.
posted by 120degrees at 11:52 AM on July 27, 2001


So you don't mind that you'll have to pay higher premiums to keep your entire driving history out of GM's (or the insurance company's) database.

People who submit their driving history will be given a discount. That's not the same as the rest of us "paying higher premiums" any more than a tax rebate is a present from the government.
posted by kindall at 12:00 PM on July 27, 2001


You really believe that?

Any reason not to? The statements are pretty explicit. What could GM possibly gain for lying (other than lawsuits and consumer revolt) so boldly and publicly?

So you don't mind that you'll have to pay higher premiums to keep your entire driving history out of GM's (or the insurance company's) database.

Anything (other than the fact that the world really is out to get you<g>) backing up this one? Do you have some inside scoop about GM and the insurance industry planning this but not telling us?

Seriously, the only way that this is a slippery slope issue is if you believe there is an active conspiracy here where GM is flat out lying about what they plan to do with OnStar data. If that is true, then it seems to me that the only way to prevent us from going down this slippery slope is to ban GPS, cameras, the internet and other information gathering devices so that they can not make use them against us.
posted by dchase at 12:29 PM on July 27, 2001


"The only way a satellite will be able to find it is if the optics get good enough to read the license tag."

That's how I feel about my '85 Fiero ... no, it's not a great car, but I've replaced just about everything in it ... and I *know* this car. There's nothing in it that I don't know how to fix, and it runs ok. I'd never buy a new car - it's almost impossible for the average person to fix them anymore (with all the onStar stuff and computers in cars these days) ... call me crazy, I'd just rather have an old car. =)
posted by Johannahh at 12:46 PM on July 27, 2001



posted by moz at 12:54 PM on July 27, 2001


First they get people used to the idea of having their driving tracked, and people subconsciously start to drive nicer so that they can get a lowered rate.

This is exactly what traffic doesn't need. Going "the speed of traffic" helps everyone get home or wherever faster. Always doing 25 when or 35 right on the nose regardless of conditions or traffic is ridiculous. I could use less nice drivers and more smart drivers.

There has to be better ways to index how well one can drive, but I think speeding and parking tickets have just become too profitable for business and government to rethink the situation.
posted by skallas at 1:09 PM on July 27, 2001


People who submit their driving history will be given a discount. That's not the same as the rest of us "paying higher premiums" any more than a tax rebate is a present from the government.

Oh really? You really think that out of the goodness of their hearts they're just going to go out and give discounts to people that provide them information? Why would they do this when they would make more money by keeping the status quo and not offering to give discounts for information? Obviously, they would want to make it up somewhere else. It may start out as discounts for those that provide the information, but to make up for these discounts, everybody else's premiums will incrementally increase. I can't believe people think that insurance companies are going to voluntarily take a cut in income just to be "fair" to those who don't speed, etc.
posted by jnthnjng at 1:18 PM on July 27, 2001


Companies don't care how much income they make. They care how much profit they make. And they can make as much (or more) profit on drivers who submit the information as they do on drivers who don't, because in theory the costs of carrying these drivers will be lower. When you are the cause of a major accident and are put in the "high-risk pool," the insurance company doesn't do that because they want to make more money off you, they do it because you're more likely to cost them money. it is so easy to switch carriers that the margins on auto insurance are razor-thin due to competition, anyway. The bulk of the money made by insurance companies is from interest earned on premiums.
posted by kindall at 1:31 PM on July 27, 2001


> The whole profit motive of insurance is to gather as
> much info on the insured population as possible, so
> as to avoid risk or charge an arm and a leg to those
> who they conclude embody risk.

Does no one else out there have socialized car insurance? The government in British Columbia runs the basic car insurance. These are the agency's own figures, but we seem to do okay compared to the other provinces.

Profit is used to fund safety improvements and driver's programs. Or if an election is coming, to pay rebate cheques.

And if the government required you to install a system like this one, you'd bear it for four years and vote them out. (Photo radar just got axed here.)

Personally, I despise every driver on the road but me, and can't wait for robot cars to keep all us deadly speeding fools off the road.
posted by Yogurt at 1:35 PM on July 27, 2001


Kindall: So you're saying that they're going to make more profit by having the best drivers pay lower premiums than they would if they had the best drivers pay higher premiums?
posted by jnthnjng at 1:38 PM on July 27, 2001


Hmm, that link comparing provinces wasn't very fair. It only compares young people, where BC does well because it doesn't discriminate by age. Here's a more balanced look at the issue with our new premier coming down on the side of competition.
posted by Yogurt at 1:40 PM on July 27, 2001


How is there any privacy issue here if the consumer controls who has access the info?

In theory, you control who has access to your social security number. In real life, anyone who wants it either has it or can get it. Goodbye, privacy.

Same here. In theory, you will control who gets your GPS data. In practice, it will become prohibitively expensive not to give it to anyone who wants it, simply because insurance companies can use the data to boost their profits. Once again: goodbye, privacy.

I'm with the old-car fans here: the only GPS receiver my jeep will ever carry is the one in my pocket. It can't tell anyone anything it doesn't know, and that's just the way I like it.

-Mars
posted by Mars Saxman at 1:42 PM on July 27, 2001


So you're saying that they're going to make more profit by having the best drivers pay lower premiums than they would if they had the best drivers pay higher premiums?

I'm saying that they can't make the best drivers pay higher premiums, because the best drivers will then switch to one of the other 1,000 automobile insurers who isn't trying to gouge them.
posted by kindall at 1:42 PM on July 27, 2001


Therefore, to recoup their loss on premiums to the best drivers, they'll increase the premiums of the worst drivers and by default, all those who don't submit information. Voila.
posted by jnthnjng at 1:47 PM on July 27, 2001


So, while individuals (read: you) are innocent until proven guilty, groups of individuals (read: companies and governments) are guilty until proven innocent? Just making sure I've got this right...
posted by Ptrin at 1:55 PM on July 27, 2001


How many companies do you know whose primary objective is to be as fair as they can to the consumer? Count them on your fingers. Now how many companies do you know whose primary objective is maximizing profit and making investors happy? Whether or not that makes them "guilty" is up to you to decide, but that's how business is usally run.
posted by jnthnjng at 2:07 PM on July 27, 2001


Therefore, to recoup their loss on premiums to the best drivers, they'll increase the premiums of the worst drivers and by default, all those who don't submit information. Voila.

... who will also promptly switch to one of the other 1,000 automobile insurers who isn't trying to gouge them.
posted by kindall at 3:13 PM on July 27, 2001


> I think that it is a slippery slope issue.
posted by pracowity at 7:55 AM on July 28, 2001


The Slippery Slope argument is a valid point of reasoning. The problem is that it's often used in incorrect ways. The third link is a perfect example (going from one thing to another ignoring all steps in between)...

If you study ethics, philosophy or law, you'll see that slippery slope is indeed very relevant.
posted by fooljay at 2:03 PM on July 28, 2001


> The Slippery Slope argument is a valid point of reasoning.

Can you name some valid arguments of the slippery slope variety that you have heard recently? Every time I hear one, it is malarkey like this:

• If you let them take away our machines guns, soon the UN's black helicopters will be circling over our suburban back yards...

• If you let them control how fast we drive, soon they'll be finding out when we visit strip clubs and reporting us to our wives...

> If you study ethics, philosophy or law ...

And that sounds as if you're trying to slip an appeal to authority into your argument. The full statement would be "If you had studied ethics, philosophy, and law like I did, you would see that..."
posted by pracowity at 11:12 PM on July 29, 2001


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