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Big brother in a box: The next step in car insurance is here

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Blackbox
Blackbox uses a GPS tracker with advanced telematics that records important data about the car and driver’s behavior. It installs in minutes. -- KAP MACEDA AGUILA

By Kap Maceda Aguila

OUR streets have long been a concrete jungle of chaos, with everyone seemingly out for himself. And whether brought about by the sheer number of vehicles or generally aggressive, devil-may-care style of driving, the numbers reveal a disturbing, unsafe trend. The Metro Manila Development Authority reports that 680 road crashes are reported in its jurisdiction every day. That’s 680 too many, of course, and while we never want to be part of that number, it can sometimes be out of our hands.

As it is, we are largely left to the tender mercies of the other motorists. Even if we cultivate safe habits behind the wheel such as remembering to drive defensively, we might still find ourselves in a fender-bender — or worse. To an extent, dashboard cameras help tell the story, and so the widespread adoption and use of this technological innovation is certainly a welcome development.

Still, if this aspect of safety is developing and leveraging on technology, isn’t it about time for car insurance — that most overlooked of inconveniences (until we actually need it, that is) — to be brought into the here and now? That’s precisely what the people at UCPB General Insurance Co., Inc., or UCPB GEN, thought. With over half a century of experience, it now seeks to “redefine the [car] insurance landscape [with an innovation] that equips cars with a monitoring device… which not only keeps [occupants] safe but also helps them save.”

Appropriately named “Blackbox,” UCPB GEN’s game-changer is predicated on a small GPS tracker with advanced telematics that “records important data about the car and driver’s behavior.” In a statement, UCPB GEN says the device, which is installed in a few minutes by simply connecting it to the vehicle’s battery terminals, “detects [the] car’s vital signs — distance traveled, time of day, speed, acceleration, and even the location. It also has a crash sensor to alert… real-time in case of accident and detect other vehicle movements such as swerving or turning.” While affording the car owner a quantitative insight into his/her (or driver’s) driving style, the Blackbox allows the registered vehicle’s position to be monitored at all times via a free-to-download app or a website.

You might ask why the company would be interested in its client’s driving technique. Well, the VTEL-powered device ultimately allows unprecedented unbiased insight into the risk factor of its clients. Aggressive driving (i.e. riskier) can be easily ascertained through harsh braking, jackrabbit starts, and other sustained behavioral tendencies when behind the wheel. While safe driving is its own reward, drivers can now actually more tangibly reap the benefits of safe driving. UCPB GEN can slash up to 20% off a safe driver’s policy — putting big data analytics in your service.

Of course, in this privacy-conscious age when the security of personal data has been seriously and repeatedly compromised, we need to raise concerns about just what is relayed to whom. Replying to a question from this writer, UCPB GEN Vice-President for technical services Mary Liao said that, for starters, the data is stored in the cloud and encrypted — accessible only to the user. However, in the event of an emergency, such as a crash, the device will transmit to the kaLAKBAY Plus data/call center the exact location of the vehicle, along with accident details. A 24-hour emergency response team will then be mobilized to go to the site. The event will also trigger an alert on the app. So during other times, the call center — and anyone else not logged in to unique account on the UCPB GEN app — cannot access location information, underscored Ms. Liao.

The tiny, durable device wouldn’t make the filing of a police report irrelevant, but it can surely speed up the process for making claims, said UCPB GEN senior vice-president Edgardo Rosario, because the Blackbox basically transmits to the company a picture of what transpired. The best part is that installing the unit will not void your vehicle warranty.

UCPB GEN Blackbox Insurance has two package plans, Pay How You Drive (annual insurance cover) and Pay As You Drive (insurance on demand). The VTEL device itself costs P15,000 if you purchase it outright, but with the former plan it comes for free, along with the GPS service subscription. Meanwhile, Pay As You Drive is a highly customizable sachet insurance product that can be based on days (from five to 180) or per-kilometer coverage (from 500 kilometers up).

So, you save yourself while saving pesos while you drive. Work your head around that one.

For more information on the UCPB GEN Blackbox Insurance, log on to www.ucpbgen.com/blackbox/.