July 22 2017 Latest news:

David Neave with smartbox

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Out of sight

•The palm-sized box is fitted to your car by an engineer, who will come to you within 14 days of you signing-up to the Co-op deal.

•It is fitted out of sight – depending on the model, it will be placed either under the dashboard or under the bonnet. It will not have a detrimental effect on the price of the car.

•It is wired to the car as it has to make use of the power supply. It picks up signals from satellites to locate itself, in the same way a mobile phone does.

•The box wirelessly calculates acceleration and cornering speeds by measuring G-force.

•The data is then transmitted back to the Co-op and to your personal, online dashboard.

The technology, which doubles up as an anti-theft tracking device, is more advanced than previous schemes have used. Many existing pay-as-you-drive schemes are based on telematics systems which analyse distance travelled, speed and time of travel. This is the first scheme which rewards safe drivers by monitoring a slightly different set of driving behaviours: speed; cornering; harsh braking and acceleration and time of driving. Drivers are assessed on a ‘pay-how-you-drive’ basis as opposed to a ‘pay-as-you-drive-scheme’, some of which have additional charges if you drive during night-time, ‘higher-risk’ hours.

The Co-op launched a policy based on this new technology, using information sent via satellite from the palm-sized box fitted by their technicians in the policyholder’s car. Every 90 days the driver’s behaviour is assessed and their premiums adjusted accordingly. This could mean a reduction of up to 11pc (an average of £328) off their annual premium. According to The Co-op, up to 85pc of young drivers are more responsible than statistics suggest and subsequently could make a saving through the ‘pay-how-you-drive’ product.

Emma-Lily Chubb, 24, tried out the Smartbox.

Having sat in plenty of cars hurtling down country lanes at horrifying speeds, I can appreciate why young drivers’ insurance costs are so high.

A survey by charity Brake found that one in 10 young drivers has overtaken another vehicle, at speed, without being able to see what is coming. But I consider myself a safe driver and I resent being penalised for the choices others of my age make, so the idea of having some control over my premiums is a very attractive prospect.

That doesn’t mean I don’t have my reservations. At the product launch, I wanted to know whether the information would be used to invalidate my insurance if I crashed while speeding. I was assured that it wouldn’t. But that hasn’t really comforted me, because I know there could still be evidence of any inadvertent lapse from my otherwise sensible driving – such as a hurried journey made when late for an appointment. Or on the motorway, when it’s oh-so-easy to let the speedometer creep up . . .

Do that too many times with the Smartbox fitted and you’ll see your premiums creep up, too. Also, although it is a free installation, if you change cars you have to pay for the new box to be fitted. I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend this to my younger sister who recently passed her test. I don’t imagine she’ll change cars often and I like to think it would encourage her to maintain the safe driving standards that she’s been taught. It’s also great for parents who have children who need insuring but who want to keep an eye on them and the costs down.

Standard quotes are based on risk evaluated by your age, your address and other personal attributes, but the more sophisticated approach this technology offers is a much fairer way of assessing drivers – and it could be cheaper for many younger ones.

The policy is exclusively for 17 to 25-year-olds who are generally among the hardest hit by higher insurance premiums. In the past year they have seen a rise, on average, of 58pc to more than £2,200. Women drivers, whose premiums are likely to rise in light of the European Court of Justice ruling that bars insurance companies from using gender as a risk factor, are particularly likely to embrace the financial benefits of this product.

David Neave, director of general insurance at The Co-operative Insurance, said: “Many young people are being priced out of owning a car due to the escalating cost.” It’s a trend he fears could lead to an “uninsurable generation”.

“We are giving them the chance to prove themselves as responsible drivers, and dispel the assumption that all young drivers will drive badly and have accidents.”

The product allows the customer to log into an online ‘Driving Dashboard’ to see how their braking, acceleration, cornering, speed and time of driving, have been rated. They also have access to driving tips, which David Neave believes will act as an, “educative tool and a deterrent against driving badly”.

In a trial of around 50 customers over six months, drivers reported a change in their driving habits, such as making fewer journeys, as a result of the information they could access.

But it isn’t a one way street; policyholders who persistently drive badly could see their premiums rise by up to 15pc of the initial policy price. If the driver exceeds the speed limit to the extent that they would, if caught, lose their licence then their policy will be cancelled.

Julie Townsend, director of campaigns at road safety charity Brake, said: “We welcome this new approach to encourage young drivers to keep themselves and others safe.

“Young drivers are involved in a shockingly high proportion of deaths and serious injuries on our road and it’s this high level of risk that pushes up their insurance costs.

“Persuading young drivers to make safer choices, like slowing down and avoiding night-time driving, is vital in preventing more lives being needlessly cut short on our roads.”


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