For the past two months a small device in my car, the size of a credit card, has been tracking my every movement.

It knows how far I drive every day, the time of day I’m driving, how quickly I accelerate to get on to the highway and which highway that was. The wireless GPS monitor goes with the Desjardins Insurance Ajusto program which was launched in Ontario last May.

I’ve been testing the device to see how much I might save by exchanging some privacy in return for a discount based on my driving habits. So far, I’m looking at about $150 a year and I’m not sure whether the tradeoff is worth it.

I’m not alone in that. Desjardins has added 130,000 new customers in Ontario and Quebec in the past year and 50,000, or about 40 per cent, have opted for Ajusto. This is despite an incentive of 5 per cent off in the first year for trying it.

Ajusto is the first of a new tier of car insurance products coming your way. Companies are using wireless technology to monitor how you drive and sell you products based on that. In exchange for personal information, you’ll get a better deal.

Ajusto’s measures are clear and well explained. It monitors the time of day you drive, the distance you drive in a year and how fast you brake and accelerate. It passed a very stringent examination by the insurance regulator, the Financial Services Commission of Ontario (FSCO). The Ontario privacy commissioner approves of the program.

Fred Carter, a senior technology advisor to Privacy Commissioner Ann Cavoukian, says the agency supported the Desjardins application because the criteria was clear, the data collection transparent and consumer privacy protected.

“Ajusto nailed it down,” Carter says.

Alex Veilleux, chief product manager in charge of telematics at Desjardins, says the company expected 25 per cent of new customers would try Ajusto, not 40 per cent. They are very happy with that. In Ontario, the take-up rate may be a testament to just how much drivers are chafing under the highest insurance rates in Canada.

Veilleux says the three things Desjardins is measuring have been shown over time to be the key factors in accidents and claims. He adds that anyone opting for Ajusto will not be punished for bad driving.

“This will never be used to deny you insurance or increase your rates,” he says. “This will never be a punitive thing. It just offers additional rewards.”

After a 10-week trial here are my thoughts:

  • The device was simple to install and plugs into my car’s diagnostic port underneath the steering column. At first, I found it creepy to think my trip to the grocery store for a dozen eggs was being recorded somewhere. I quickly forgot the device was there.
  • You can log in to the Desjardins web site and view a rolling tally of your annual savings. Veilleux says this information is a powerful motivator for better driving, because like a video game you’re always aiming for a better score.
  • Desjardins advertises savings of ‘up to 25 per cent’ but the average is 12 per cent.
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