Ever wondered how far you drive in a given month? Want to track everywhere your car goes, NSA style? About six months ago, I was invited to beta test a new product from a company called Metromile. Californians may be familiar with Metromile’s ads, which seem to be everywhere, including on the very pricey billboards flanking the Bay Bridge.
The company’s main goal is to sell you per-mile car insurance. The idea is that if you walk or bike a lot, paying per-mile for your car insurance will save you money, and encourage you to drive less. Metromile’s rates are pretty reasonable for this service, but I’m not terribly interested in using it. What interested me about Metromile is their device.
In order to bill you per mile for car insurance, Metromile needs to know how much you drive. To accomplish this, they issue you a little dongle which plugs into your car’s onboard diagnostic port. Don’t worry, your car has one; it’s usually somewhere under the steering wheel, unless you drive something super, super old. The device, which they call a Metronome, reads acceleration, fuel usage, and other data from your car. It also has a GPS chip, which it uses to track your position. All this data gets sent to Metromile over a built in cellular connection.
The Metronome device
The neat thing is that since Metromile would like to sell you car insurance, they don’t charge anything for the usage of the device (at least for now). That means that their system provides a fantastic, free, wireless way to get all kinds of data about your driving.
Installing the Metronome is stupidly simple. You take it out of the box, find the diagnostic port on your car, and plug it in. As you begin to drive, your Metromile account receives data on each trip you take. You can log into their app/web interface to see each trip plotted on a map, see fuel efficiency data, view your speed at each part of your drive, etc. You can also get summary stats on your driving for the past week or month. And of course, you can see how much you would save by switching to their insurance plan.
From a home automation perspective, Metromile provides some neat capabilities. If you’re into hypermiling or life automation, you can use it to optimize your driving, finding which routes are fastest, most direct, or result in the best fuel efficiency. What’s more interesting is the possibility of getting data back out of Metromile. They don’t have an API at the moment, but they do have a way to export all your raw data, so you can at least see what’s there.
Once they do introduce an API—or once I figure out how to write one for them like with Bidgely—I plan to integrate my driving data into my home automation system more directly. For example, I could use Metromile to help my system determine if I’m home. If the GPS reports that my car is approaching, my system could turn the lights on for me, turn on the AC, etc.
A Metromile integration could also be a great addition to a home security system. If Metromile reports that my car is driving away at 2am, my system could alert me. It could also detect if the car drives away while I’m on vacation, and send me a text with its location.
Finally, a Metromile integration could be a great way to get an additional data point into the system for use in my info displays. For example, I could configure my ambient indicator (more soon) to change color as my driving increases towards the 1,000 miles per month limit on my lease. It would be a great reminder to walk a bit more.
Check out Metromile here, and remember to pester them about an API!