Thousands of vehicles across the country are being disabled while driving by Progressive Insurance’s “Snapshot” monitoring device, drivers claim.
One driver who acquired the device, which monitors driving habits to reward lowered insurance premiums, says he first noticed something amiss after his vehicle’s dashboard lights began malfunctioning.
“I’m a pretty safe driver, but I was driving even safer,” James Manning told WBZ-TV.
As his vehicle’s performance slowly deteriorated, Manning says the issue became dire when his vehicle unexpectedly shut off in the middle of traffic as he drove his daughter and nephew to school.
“It was pretty scary,” Manning said. “I had to yank the car to the right to safely pull it into a parking lot since it didn’t have any power steering or power brakes.”
After having his car towed to a nearby mechanic, Manning was told that the problem was a simple issue with the battery, easily remedied with a replacement and tune-up.
Despite following the mechanic’s advice, Manning became convinced the Snapshot was responsible after his vehicle and power steering failed once again.
“At that point, I’m thinking the Snapshot device was responsible,” Manning said.
Manning says his vehicle has returned to normal since removing the device.
According to court documents obtained by WBZ-TV, Progressive has received as many as 8,121 similar complaints from Snapshot users. Although Progressive denies its customers’ reports, the company has paid out $582,009 in claims since February 2014.
“Complaints around vehicles shutting down are extremely rare. And in our experience, there have been no causes in which the device was found to be the cause of a vehicle shutdown,” spokeswoman Amanda Lupica said. “Progressive continually tests and refines its devices to ensure customer safety and we are confident in the performance of our Snapshot device.”
Aside from what appears to be inherent safety issues, the Snapshot device has also been shown to be vulnerable to hackers. Last January security researcher Corey Thuen spoke with Forbes after bypassing security holes in the Snapshot.
“By hooking up his laptop directly to the device he says he would have been able to unlock doors, start the car and gather engine information, but he chose not to ‘weaponise’ his exploits…” Forbes wrote.
In reality, vehicles are becoming increasingly vulnerable due to on-board computers alone.
Security researchers showed off a multitude of attacks in 2013 that allowed a car’s breaks, horn, seat belt, GPS and countless other features to be controlled by an outside user.
Increased computing in the auto industry will not only continue to raise questions on safety, but on the amount of personal data being harvested by third parties and governments as well.