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Mitsubishi hopes you'll trade driving data for a cheaper oil change

If you don't mind shedding some privacy.
Jon Fingas, @jonfingas
July 6, 2018
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Companies and cities love it when you supply driving data, but how do they convince you to hand it over? In Mitsubishi's case, it's simple: shower people with gifts. The automaker has launched a mobile app that asks American commuters to share data on their driving habits with insurance companies in return for badges they can exchange for rewards. Mind your road manners (such as staying within the speed limit or avoiding sudden braking) and you can get discounts on oil changes and car accessories. You should also receive free coffee and gift cards by the end of 2018.

Insurers and local governments have tried similar strategies, but this is the first of its kind directly from a car company. Mitsubishi's Bryan Arnett described this to the Wall Street Journal as a way to "stabilize the business" with alternate sources of income if car sales slip.

The catch, as you may have guessed, is that insurers will have your data. The Mitsubishi project will help insurers understand driving patterns and adjust their risk profiles, potentially lowering your rates if you drive safely. However, you're potentially subjecting yourself to scrutiny for every little decision you make on the road, often without context. If you push past the speed limit to get out of a big rig's blind spot, will Mitsubishi know the difference between that and genuinely reckless driving? Probably not.

Simultaneously, there's a concern that insurance companies may try to make this kind of data collection mandatory if you want to avoid stiff premiums, rather than a bonus. If they did, you wouldn't have much choice but to sacrifice privacy if you wanted to drive. The move draws attention to the practices of the car makers themselves, for that matter. Many of them are aware that car ownership might not last forever, and they may increasingly turn to data harvesting strategies like this to offset any potential sales drops.

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