I signed up with Allstate’s Drivewise program around a month and a half ago. The incentive is that you can save up to 30% on your insurance.

They mailed out a pair of blue boxes that we are supposed to plug into each of our cars’ OBD-II ports.

The device seems to be based on the Kore telematics GE864-QUAD hardware (from the FCC ID). From looking at the box, I can see the card in question along with the strip antenna on the side and the microcontroller / OBD-II interface on another board. (I would do a teardown, but I don’t want to break the seal — Allstate would get plenty mad at me for that)

Dutifully, we plugged them in.

This is where the fail began.

The OBD-II port is the mandated port for the On-Board Diagnostics. This is the port that the mechanic plugs into to have the car’s computer tell them what’s wrong (typically a sensor is broken or reading out of range).

The port isn’t intended to have something inserted for a long time.

En’s car particularly.

The first drive caused the box to fall off.

This isn’t a problem with the port. This is a problem with the box. The device has no retention mechanism other than the friction of female receptacles for pins.

Like I was saying: this port on the car is meant for intermittent use. If you want to use it for something else it’s the responsibility of the the exception to deal with it.

We taped it up but the tape isn’t awesome at holding back gravity. But more on that later.

Now I get to the heart of my problem with the program: it’s completely simple-minded. It takes into account exactly three things to compute your discount: time of day, braking and time spent over 80 miles per hour. It then occasionally sends a packet back to the mothership over a cellular modem to report back.

I can understand time of day and speeding for the most part. (Of course if you’re out west, the limit is close to 80 anyway… but it doesn’t know where you are) But braking is programming you for the wrong behavior.

What I found myself doing to avoid triggering the device is carrying too much speed through turns. Even the way it measures acceleration is defective — it’s the car’s reported speed. (i.e. if you have low traction and need to spin up your tires to get moving it might think you went from 0-30 in a second (no, I’m not in a Formula 1 car). Ditto for braking if your car chooses to report speed like that.)

I understand what they are trying to do… but to have a report you get well after the fact that says “You broke hard a week ago” isn’t a way to build or reinforce the behavior you want — it just seems random.

Then on Friday I got this email:

Please Call Us About Your Drive WiseSM Device

This communication refers to this vehicle and this device:

2004 BMW 330CI xxxxxxxxxx

Dear George Burgyan,

We’re writing to let you know that the data coming from your Allstate Drive WiseSM telematics device suggests that the device has been removed for a lengthy period of time and then reconnected.

We’d like to ask for your assistance to help us address this situation. If your car has been in for service, please let us know by simply replying to this message, or give us a call at 877-431-7670. If we don’t hear from you, we may contact you to try to help understand the cause of the disconnection.

Please remember that your enrollment in the Allstate Drive Wise program requires that your device remain continuously installed. We do make allowances for brief removals of the device so that mechanics or emissions-control personnel can access the diagnostic port in your vehicle. Unfortunately, the amount of time your device has been removed exceeded this grace period.

Thank you for your assistance, we hope to hear from you shortly.
Allstate Drive WiseSM Customer Team

This was the last straw.

This thing is a poorly engineered turd. I’m beta testing this thing and they are giving me a lecture that I unplugged it. No, you idiot, the damn thing you gave me doesn’t stay plugged in. Not only that but the program is actively making me a less safe driver.

Epic fail.