August 1st, 2012
Car rental agencies have an understandable fear when placing a set of keys in the hands of a renter. The unpredictability of drivers’ skills, combined with the knowledge that the drivers will not have to get their rentals’ brakes or transmissions repaired in the future, creates a maintenance and insurance nightmare for agencies. Before long, however, folks might find that they have a new set of incentives to treat rental cars with a little more kindness.
GPS devices are set to become a tool used by insurance companies to keep track of the driving habits of renters. They can record and send back a wide range of informational tidbits—simple things like real-time location and routes traveled, but also more complex data like average speeds, braking behavior, and other activity that could put excessive wear and tear on vehicles. Insurance companies would love the opportunity to reward good drivers by lowering their rates and, of course, put the bulk of insurance costs on the shoulders of more risky drivers. These GPS devices would allow them to do just that.
Insurance companies are starting slowly, though. They recognize that car renters could easily be scared off if they feel like “Big Brother” is suddenly watching them at all times. Right now, most of the GPS tracking is on a voluntary basis, so good drivers looking for discounts are the primary participants. The insurance companies are also mostly limiting their rate changes to discounts, not implementing penalties quite yet.
Financial concerns are not the only ones driving the monitoring by GPS devices. In the event of an accident, a GPS unit could alert the rental agency and emergency response personnel, leading to quicker response times and saved lives. If a rental car were stolen—a common problem, especially with high-value exotic cars—the company could easily help law enforcement locate the vehicle with the help of the GPS signal.
Are car renters too uncomfortable with the idea of agencies watching their every move for GPS tracking to catch on? Perhaps input from volunteers will give insurance and rental agencies an idea of its possible reception on a large scale. Until then, those who are accustomed to taking a few extra liberties with their rentals may want to practice some milder driving habits—just in case someone is watching them on a monitor somewhere.
February 16th, 2011
Controversy swirled in Australia earlier this week when a rental car dealership, DriveMyCar Rentals, announced its plans to put GPS tracking devices in each of its rental vehicles. The rental agency decided to use GPS tracking to better protect the vehicles it hires out. By having a GPS in each rental car, the company will be able to track their vehicles in real time and supervise the customer’s use of the vehicle. DriveMyCar Rentals hopes the GPS devices will prevent customers from misusing the rental vehicles and prevent costly damage to their cars. For example, the GPS tracking device would allow the owners to know if the customer was doing something that could potentially damage the car, such as driving on a dirt road. The rental agency is planning to install GPS devices in only a third of its vehicles right now.
While DriveMyCar Rentals is implementing this plan to protect their merchandise, some have protested that these tracking devices will violate privacy laws. Civil Liberties Australia, for instance, is not in favor of the rental agency’s plan. In response to protests, the car hire agency assured customers that they will not be able to trace a vehicle’s history. The company claims that information from the tracking devices they will install can only be viewed in real time. The rental agency has also guaranteed customer notification of the GPS tracking devices, saying that they will inform customers both in the rental terms and with a sticker on the vehicle.
Controversy involving GPS and personal privacy is not new. Since GPS has grown more popular and become more widely used in the public spectrum, many have brought up objections over the unethical use of these satellite tracking devices. For instance, on the other side of the world, in New York City, a recent news item was about the controversy over GPS devices being installed in taxis. Taxi drivers argued that the satellite tracking would invade their privacy, but owners of the cab agency countered that the tracking devices were necessary to prevent drivers from cheating their customers. Other recent debates about the ethical use of GPS tracking include criminal suspect tracking, where law enforcement officers use GPS tracking devices to gather evidence against suspects in a case. However, in each situation, GPS tracking is providing solutions for businesses, homes, and even law enforcement.
While GPS tracking devices can cause privacy concerns, they are becoming immensely helpful to companies around the world – even DriveMyCar Rentals.
Article Written by Greg Bartlett