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LoJack system will allow parents, auto makers and insurance companies to track vehicles

Insurance companies, auto makers will also have tracking capabilities

November 25, 2013 03:30 PM ET

Computerworld - LoJack, whose technology has for years allowed law enforcement to track down stolen vehicles, plans to release a device for parents and others to track family vehicles.

The devices will not only collect data about vehicle locations, but also about how well someone is driving. It would also be able to restrict talking or texting on a smartphone while a vehicle is in operation.

The company plans to offer telematics devices with the ability to wirelessly monitor vehicles for driving habits and auto performance to insurance companies and auto makers.

"Insurance companies want to collect that data for their actuarials," said Emad Isaac, chief technology officer for LoJack. "So instead of static information, such as your age, where you live, where you're driving and your past record, they... use your driving behavior as a predictor. So [the insurance company] will pay you in the form of a discount to collect that information."

Through a partnership with TomTom navigation systems, LoJack already provides commercials fleets with the ability to track service trucks. LoJack's Fleet Management Service is a GPS-based advanced telematics system that can track fleets with as many as 5,000 vehicles. The tracking system allows companies to monitor how safely their drivers are operating vehicles.

"We want to do the same thing for the safety of drivers for consumers," Isaac said. "In 2014, we'll have a series of products with a vast array of formats."

The new devices, which will ship sometime next year, will be tailored for different markets. Some devices may be dongles that can plug into a vehicle's On-Board Diagnostic (OBD II) System port, while others will be factory or dealership-installed telematics system that could not be easily removed by consumers.

For example, an auto maker could install a telematics tracking device in the factory that would monitor equipment such as fuel injectors, electrical or vehicle diagnostics. The device would report back on whether there are mechanical issues over the life of a car.

"They could be monitoring them proactively to handle maintenance or warranty issues," Isaac said. "If incidents of system failures are creeping up, they can recall the vehicles and make modifications to the product line. In that case, they're not using data about you and you're position, it's being used for the purposes of improving the product."

The collection of vehicle data has already sparked pushback by legislators.

In June, congressional lawmakers filed bipartisan legislation to give car owners control over data collected in black box-style recorders that may be required in all cars as soon as next year.

Last year, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) proposed a new standard that would require all light passenger vehicles (weighing 8,500 lbs or less) and motorcycles built on or after Sept. 1, 2014, to have event data recorders (EDRs). The recorders, while similar in function to black boxes in airplanes, record far less information.

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