Progressive MyRate Hackable?

Progressive Insurance announced that it will be rolling out its MyRate plan nationally. You participate by plugging a monitoring device into the ODB-II port on your vehicle. Once every six months you upload the collected data from every trip you’ve made. You’ll receive at least a 5% discount and maybe more based on your driving habits. In some states though, you could actually have your rates raised. Progressive will show you the direct impact your driving behavior has on your rate.

[Aaron Landry] has been participating in the pilot program and points out that the sensor is actually a rebranded CarChip. The CarChip is a datalogging device that can record a number of parameters: trip time, length, distance, speed, acceleration, deceleration, to name a few. 23 different engine parameters can also be made available. The MyRate device works with the same software as the CarChip. For the national rollout though, Progressive has a wireless device which is probably also manufactured by Davis.

While we’re not the types to expose our driving behavior-would you let your health insurance company monitor you? The MyRate device looks like juicy target for the unscrupulous and we wouldn’t be surprised to see someone exploit it. We’re wondering what sort of safeguards have been put in place. Any signal headed into the device could be modified. With the CarChip there’s no good reason to do that, but the MyRate is different because of potential monetary savings. It seems like far too much trust to put in a customer and we’re guessing Progressive has covered their bases either by securing the device or more likely: making it not worthwhile to the consumer to begin with.

58 thoughts on “Progressive MyRate Hackable?

  1. I don’t exactly know how these debugging ports work in cars, but couldn’t you just emulate driving around casually for a while and use that, having it plugged into your computer, rather than your car. I presume it doesn’t record date and time since that would evade privacy, for of a how long you drive and how fast, and saves them as averages. I’m guessing that the port is some sort of serial port, It’d be nice to have some more information.

    1. The device records everything. Including the cell tower it comed too. You will nevr get the rate reduction. Better off playing a slot machine. Just anopther info colecting device. That can be tricked so easy. Lame firmware.

  2. So what’s to keep one from creating a computer interface for this device, and using a program to feed it status codes throughout the day? All you’d need to do is keep it plugged into a computer all the time, and have a program mimic the status of your car.

  3. It seems to me this thing is really nothing more than a gimmick. You can tell some things from the OBDII port but the only thing that I can see that would be useful to determine ‘safe driving’ that can be measured is possibly acceleration rates or maximum speed. I suppose one could easily build an OBDII filter device to smooth acceleration and limit maximums, but the question is: would it even be worth it?

    The device cannot tell if you are speeding in a school zone or weaving in and out of traffic. It can’t tell if you are drunk. It can’t tell if someone else is driving your car. It can’t even tell if it is plugged into your car all the time! Insurance companies cannot afford to take the risk that someone might cheat with this device and therein lies the gimmick — it won’t really save you money. They will just adjust their margin slightly for people with this device based on some safe algorithm — maybe you will save $100.

    So why even do it? Why pay people $100 to put this in their car? Because it will save them money on claims and in lawsuits with other insurers and give them more leverage when wanting to raise rates or drop proplem customers. Most probably when you make a claim they will drop by and download the device log. Now they can do all sorts of stuff with that data to save themselves money. Heck, just having their own record of the speed the car was going when an accident happened could save them millions.

    Forget this thing.

  4. There’s really no need to feed emulated information into the CarChip. Just generate false logs when it’s time to upload the data. At most, you’d need to create a shim driver to emulate a USB device for the data to come from.

    As for the usefulness of the data, they’re probably just looking at speed and hard acceleration and decelerations. People who slam on the gas and the brakes all the time tend not to be safe drivers. And I totally agree with John, the data will most likely be used in the event of a claims dispute for accident reconstruction.

    I don’t quite get the whole concept of the program though. The only people who are going to get it are safe drivers, who are unlikely to be in accidents, so the data for accident reconstruction isn’t going to come into play very often, and so probably won’t save Progressive much money at all.

  5. I’ve had one of the Davis units for 4 years. I bought it when the Ford dealer couldn’t figure out why my wife’s Mustang kept turning the check engine light on. It’s probably hackable to fake the data, you’d have to simulate the OBDII signals and respond to the inquires from the carchip device, including providing the vehicles VIN to the car chip. Yep, the VIN is in the car’s computer and the carchip reads it to determine what vehicle it’s attached to. It also knows when it’s been removed and reinstalled and logs the date and time of every event. Trip points can be set to determine if you’ve exceeded a preset speed, accelerated or braked quickly. It also notes the last time it was cleared and reset, I’d bet Progressive keeps track of that to determine if the device has been altered or cleared by the owner. You’d have to reset the carchip and restart it with the exact same parameters and the exact same date/time to get around that. It could be done, but how do you know when the guy in the office last cleared the carchip? Yesterday when it was installed, last week, last month or ???

    Just a thought.

  6. Well, on the page about the device, they say, that it shares the information wireless. That would mean, that if you drive around it would always be uploading the current data to them, so you have no way of deleting or changing any logs, because there are none. But If it’s really wireless, it would work like a mobile phone, requiring an antenna station “near” it. If you drive in an area with bad coverage it wouldn’t really work, i guess. Or do you think that’s just to prevent customers from modifying the device?

  7. Maybe the only reason that you have cheaper insurance when this is in your car is because people think that their driving is being monitored. This means that average Joe assumes that the chip knows everything there is to know about his driving and to keep his premium down he drives safer.This means that on average people with this chip drive safer and therefore can have a lower premium. I reckon the chip would work just as well even if it didn’t have a chip inside the serial port.

  8. Actually, max speed, acceleration and total miles driven per year are all facts the insurance companies want to know. If you think about it, someone who frequently accelerates as fast as the car can; drives faster than the usual speed limit (or frequently drives faster than the highest limit in the area; some states still have 55 as their highest limit); and who drives many miles per day or week probably meets the insurance company’s idea of someone who is 5% or 10% more likely to have an accident.

    Remember that the insurance companies go mostly on statistics. When I had a full-ton pickup truck, it was cheap to insure because people driving trucks get into fewer accidents in my state. But, when I bought a Civic hatchback, my rates went up because people driving hatchbacks get into more accidents.

    I wonder if Progressive would be nice enough to let you know if your MyRate monitor indicated that your car needed mechanical work…

  9. I had one of these for a while. The Carchip model that Progressive uses seems to be a stripped down version of the other ones that Davis Instruments sells. The only things that it would monitor are Date and Time, Speed, and Acceleration/Deceleration.

    There really isn’t much of a point to trying to alter the data it records. No matter how ‘bad’ your driving is according to their standards, your rate doesn’t go up. It can only go down if you stay under 70mph and drive during ‘less risky’ hours of the day. In fact I got a 5% discount just for uploading the data no matter what it was. At least that’s how it worked during the pilot program.

  10. I’d say someone needs to screw with them, throw that chip into an Indy 500 car on raceday. Let them try to figure how my 10 year old truck pulled 200+ miles per hour for a few hours each week. I know it probably wouldn’t work for long but this seems like the perfect way to really mess with them.

    Also, what’s to prevent me from turning over my grandparents car and saying that it’s my primary car?

  11. 1) Only available in four states (Al, Mi, Mn, Or)

    2) Tracks “How far you drive”, “When you drive”, “How aggressively you drive”.

    3) Data collected is shared with the End User via website.

    4) “Wirelessly” uploads data. I’d LOVE to know how that’s implemented.

    5) Data available to law enforcement and third parties w/ given permission.

    6) Rates can go lower OR HIGHER depending on driving habits.

  12. I’m willing to bet that the data they say they will record and the data they actually record will be quite different, Though I don’t know if it will be more or less data than they say.

    I also agree with #8, people do behave better when they think they are being watched.

  13. Sounds to me like a gimmick to push an underlying agenda.

    Get everyone to install these to the point that they are so common, no one can or will be insured without one. Then slowly phase in gps based units and eventually they have big brother of the car world. No more privacy when you drive, no more avoiding tickets since they upload your data straight to a police mainframe if you ever speed and the ticket will be posted (heck why not just E-mail it lol) automaticaly.

    Accidents are instantly asses to see which driver ran the light, was speeding, was driving dangerously etc etc.

    Heck the list is endless, most of it can be used for good (help raise the premium of dangerous drivers, while lowering those of safer drivers etc), but majority of it will just be invasion of privacy (why do they need to know you parked outside a whore house/drug dealers premesis etc?).

    TBH I would be very weary of using one of these things for the above reasons, afterall whats $100 more for piece of mind comapared with $100 saving on your cover in return for paranoia?

  14. Mojo, that’s a pretty iffy slippery slope you’re talking about. How do you make the leap from [optional, asynchronous, tracking “How far you drive”, “When you drive”, “How aggressively you drive” (as above] to [mandatory, GPS-based location aware, real-time]?

  15. the one I have (from progressive, a couple of years old now) has a simple USB connector to upload the data. The log only contains driving distance, speed, and date/time. It DOES NOT record location information. And, of course, it only records when it’s actually plugged into the odb-ii port in the car. (Mine is not wireless, but then again, it’s not the latest version, either.)
    The device has pins for more than the data they’re collecting (such as, CPU status, exhaust system, trans, etc.), but only a couple of them are connected internally.

  16. James – the slippery slope here requires that these devices really start to catch on to the point that an insurance provider can require them. Once a vast majority of policyholders have them, it’s not that big of a step to require the rest to get a device or receive a huge rate hike. Now, rather than getting a device to get lower rates, users will get one to avoid higher rates. After all, if you don’t want a device, you must have something to hide, and thus are a bigger risk.

    As long as all the big players in the insurance business follow suit (why wouldn’t they, it helps their bottom line?), then drivers are pretty much required to have one to be insured. Then, there’s not much to stop the insurance companies from extending the functionality of the monitoring devices. GPS would be added under the guise of further monitoring driving habits, perhaps to see if a driver frequents dangerous roads or intersections.

    Once the insurance companies have this big brother view of drivers, it’s only a small step to guess that the government will want a piece of the data mining action. One only has to look at the pressures government puts on the telecom industry for wiretapping rights to see where this could lead.

  17. Someone could just get the specs on the ODBII data format and make an emulator based on an AT-Mega or similar uC that runs when the car is on and have it input false data into the device.
    Give the thing the blue bill it’ll never know the truth.

  18. Just got mine in the mail. My wife saw that we could get a 5% discount. She clicked “sure”. So now I’m wondering what I should do. I could install it and repost in 6 months. My rate is $363 for my 2004 Expedition. I’ll keep you up to date.

  19. To put it simple your cars computer spits out a good deal of information. but some things people mentioned aren’t sent

    ECU doesn’t know its vin, doesn’t know the time of day, and it in most cases has no idea if you are putting your foot on the brake (possible in automatics).

    The information the insurance company will be after will most likely be the rappid acceleration and miles driven,

    both can easily be falsified. USB readers for OBDII are roughly 20 dollars on ebay, a small board can also be created to forward false codes and information into the progressive chip

    if you have a carputer installed in your vehicle you can set the cap for RPM and MPH, this can easily fool the insurance company to think you’ve driven less and been more calm in your driving patterns.

    The hacking, unless the OBDII and Carputer are already installed would cost far more than you would save insurance wise to validate the reason

    just my 2 cents

  20. I just got a 10.3% discount – that’s $27 per month – $162 per 6 mo term – or $324 per year.

    And that is with more “sudden starts and stops” than the average MyRate user. If I drove like my mother, I could save over $600 per year.

  21. I just got my device replaced because the first one stop working.

    The new one is wireless version which use cell phone network to send the data back.

    As you may know, every time you communicate with a cell tower, it can locate you with in … I don’t know, maybe a mile? Same feature on some cellphones with google map.

    I really worried how they going to use these information.

  22. Got here while researching the device – applying for Progressive insurance at the moment. I-59 in AL where I live has 70 MPH speed limit and most of the folks go up to 80. Sometimes, when changing lanes, I go up to 85-90. Don’t really brake hard, but since I go over speed limit all the time, I’m too scared to install it. My rate will go up most likely :(

  23. this chip clearly uses obd2 information the only real parameters i can see them using are: speed sensors, abs sensors, tachometer, if you have a vehicle with stability control it will probably store that info as well. it uses cell towers to communicate with progressive if you look closely at the device it uses simcard technology to ID the my-rate and give it an addresses with whatever cell company they’re working with. in the legalize it says that you may have to pay additional fees for the communication aka the cell taxes. last but not least the device will only know that its connected to the specific type of car not the exact car it’s plugged into because the autos computer pre 2010 do not carry that information. but most 2009 and newer fords Nissan Toyota do. the dealerships can now connect wireless to your automobile for diagnostic purposes.

  24. If you think it possible, well…it is possible with this (newest device). What has been failed to be mentioned here is that based on the circuits (chips, as in multiple) architecture, the possibilities that are being recorded are endless. One cannot assume a simple USB style data stream outlet from the device enables a person, even with excellent computer skills, to understand what information has been garnered. One must have the language the (BIOS) style chips are programmed in, and if that is unknown and secret corporate code, one will never decipher all the features built in. Mine has at least 4 circuit boards, one has at least a transmitter, one has a battery and BIOS chops, one is a receiver, and one looks to be the main monitoring and data crunching board. Two boards are joined together back to back, and appear as one, until you see that they are different circuits on each side. Perhaps you have been offered a savings and that is all well and good, however if that is not the intended and only purpose(s) (perhaps offering better safety as well), if this is utilized in other ways away from the main mission of the design and specific purpose, then I would have to say that its very nature is suspect and innately poor, or distrustful in nature. …on another note …it is Nov 2010 and my laptop has faceware recognition to log on…WTF ! That is on my Alienware laptop…George Orwell’s 1984 is a great book!…Big Brother is watching you! ALWAYS!

  25. If it ever comes to Big Brother watching you by GPS by OBD2, you can always go with a pre-1996 car that doesn’t have such a port. There’s the excuse you’ve been looking for to buy a ’67 Mustang!! Or you could simply not buy into it, refuse to install it now, then it will remain a fringe item. Fringe does not equal profit.

    This is why if I had OnStar, I would disable it–just cut power to the transmitter. There’s always a wire to cut! Also John, that’s why I disabled the webcam on my laptop. Now I can’t figure out how to turn it back on, but at least I’ve got peace of mind!

  26. Just a few corrections to Bump the Dead’s post: I know this is an old post but it’s still interesting.

    To put it simple your cars computer spits out a good deal of information. but some things people mentioned aren’t sent

    ECU doesn’t know its vin, doesn’t know the time of day, and it in most cases has no idea if you are putting your foot on the brake (possible in automatics).

    (Newer cars know the vin. This thing uses cell towers to transmit so the time and date will be known also. Nearly all cars made in the last 10 years know when the brake is pressed (Auto or Manual. It doesn’t matter).)

    The information the insurance company will be after will most likely be the rappid acceleration and miles driven,

    both can easily be falsified. USB readers for OBDII are roughly 20 dollars on ebay, a small board can also be created to forward false codes and information into the progressive chip

    (See post by John S. Swygert)

    if you have a carputer installed in your vehicle you can set the cap for RPM and MPH, this can easily fool the insurance company to think you’ve driven less and been more calm in your driving patterns.

    (This would also mess up your shift points, abs, trac control, odometer etc)

    The hacking, unless the OBDII and Carputer are already installed would cost far more than you would save insurance wise to validate the reason

    just my 2 cents

    (I agree)

  27. Here’s an idea! LEARN TO DRIVE, so you don’t have to “hack” it. IF you can’t drive well, you shouldn’t be on the road. Otherwise you wont need to hack it. -.- *smh* you people are the epitome of subnormality.

  28. oops sorry. kid you not wrong kbd. – anything is hackable. GSM? self upload? wrote some apps for a friends car to read with ECAN module in a pic18f or similar. – so what if your car is old, no electronic engine? you automatically get a discount

    Its another WASTE OF RESOURCE ¬! yes take your old mobile screens . yes pull up old chips from the 70’s to use in your own projects because of this little gimiickry is ofsetting you trying to do anything about it.

    Sry , its little wank-apps and i-pad users in this world that get me steaming with the waste of crunch/CPU and or dare be-it efficiency. bullshit architecture I could design as a learning ASIC ..fumem fume fume .. have a good’n

    Happy Bacons!

  29. I have just read through a few of your posts here and I am seeing a lot of different opinions on what a car can and can’t do. As a professional automotive A.S.E. Master Tech, I can tell you that computerized vehicles these days are smarter than you may think….
    1. 2002 and later, VIN# is programmed into the pcm (GM, Chrysler, Ford, and a few others)
    2. 2009 and later Chryslers will actually search for fuel vapors in the vacuum line when you get low on gas. “Running on fumes” isn’t just an expression anymore.
    3. there is a LOT more info to be had from a pcm than you think. (I.E. with a proper scanning device you can view everything that a pcm is doing right down to the relays that are being activated at any given time.)
    4. think of this as kind of like a display that you may find in a custom diesel truck (the digital one that tells you mph, rpm, boost, egt, and so on ) those just simply plug into the OBDII port.
    5. have you ever replaced a battery in you car and noticed that it didnt quite run right for the first few days? it’s because once the pcm lost power it had to relearn all of it’s parameters on how “you” drive.
    Interesting fact.
    1. A late model Volvo or Volkeswagon has up to 29 computers.
    2. the average pcm in todays vehicles are SMARTER than the computer system that N.A.S.A. uses in the latest of space shuttles

    Tell me again how you don’t think the chip could really catalog all that data. It is ripe for the picking with the proper setup

  30. Does anybody know if these things can be programmed to make your car run bad. Found one in my car from previous owner or my mechanic. I had a lot of problems with the car till I pulled it out.

  31. I have the base version of the carchip. Mine logs speed, time, and three user selectable parameters. Davis INstruments has an SDK you can download. I. set mine to log engine temp, intake temp, and alternater voltage.

    The usb port uses hid protocol and dumps logged data in ASCII format. The manual notes that tne unit may cause problems on certain vehicles.

    The Davis Instruments website list several models, including at least one with wireless download ability. I suspect the wireless is bluetooth to allow fleet Maintenence shops to read the data with a tablet or smartphone app.
    I doubt that the insurance company would use the more expensive wireless units

  32. I can clear up a couple things i’ve seen the guts of one now. I’m Canadian tho. I have a history in ECM programming mosty a hobby; but do sell software that flashes many models of PCM’s, ECM.

    ODBC is a standard; this is bad for them. I have a working version of a simulator on the bench. it’s not hardware as of yet as i’ve replaced the factory firmware in a PCM with my own.

    I’ll skip all that and just tell you the sneaky stuff about the device.

    People think wow it’s got a sim in it; yes it does the sim is used to provide a unique identifier on a private circuit. These are setup very much like vpn’s on the providers network. Ie it’s not really a cellphone; you can’t get a voip circuit out of it.

    Pulling the device out of the port to drag race and plugging it back in is bad.. It’s got circuit for that and has the ability to keep itself powered via a cap on the layer 2 board for awhile.

    ODBC is an always on deal in many cars ie; power exist switched or not with ignition. But not all.

    ODBC is also a datastream it’s not something you need to request a value from the pcm on it’s very serial in nature and you decide what you want to listen to.. This is bad as they have access to everything and makes it very hard to figure out what they are looking at.

    Ie some bmw’s have gloading in the stream; companies may add anything they want to it. What makes it a standard are a base set of headers generic devices can expect to exist.

    I think the best way is daughter card between it and the device that will range out the values.

    Ie pcm might see a speed of 12 24 50 ; we can easily curve those to bring back 15 20 25 indicating to the device a smooth acceleration curve.

    The big thing remains the accelometers on the device itself; it’s going to require a hack to null those. Problem is the chip is fairly decent and we would only want to null values out of spec for what we are trying to hide at the same time it could use speed as a key part of x to decide that. bummer.

    Once you add the ability for them to detect your location via cellphone towers it really starts to tilt into a fairly decent hack. Pushing fake data down the device is kinda mute at that point we have zero way to fake the location of the device itself. It can easily monitor if a vehicle was moving at a certain time and even get an avrg speed out of it although they could never use that calculated speed to do anything it would be iffy at best.

    From a tablet please excuse generic bad stuff that comes from typing on one of these crappy devices.

  33. I’m working from memory at the moment, so bear with me. If someone would like more detail (in pursuit of more hackability), I can run some real-world tests with the P-CarChip, cable and software I still have.

    The P-CarChip is still plugged in BTW, blinking out of the corner of my eye and forcing me to double-take whenever I get in and out of the car… still.

    I signed up for the program years ago, with ideas of seeing what it could do once I had it in my nerdy ‘lil hands. (And find out what sort of data was getting collected.) After some digging and a few searches on the part number I found the link to Davis, the CarChip… and I think this very post.

    Using the Progressive cable and an older revision of the CarChip software, I am able to download trip data from the device, clear it’s memory, read ODB codes and reset the SES status.

    I wasn’t able to modify the configuration, all of the limit and measure settings appeared to be locked (via security / firmware / dark magic). Attempts to re-flash the device with a Davis CarChip firmware image appeared to start.. then fail (checksum ..I think).

    To it’s credit, the P-CarChip didn’t flinch, and started recording trips as soon as I plugged it back in.

  34. Well I have been trying to figure it out for a long time. Like Maybe just cutting the wires that go to the Ecu and leaving the power and ground so it knows its plugged in but doesn’t think the car is running. But idk if that would work. I did find a super sweet tricks though that has been keeping my hard breaking down to almost zero.

    1. Do share the trick. This is what has got me PIS**D at this thing. The hard braking beep. If I coast to a stop, I’m ok. But if I go any more than 20% on the brakes, it beeps. I’m talking about nowhere near hard or dangerous or locking up, and its beeping that stupid beep at me. I hate it!

  35. I have progressive snapshot and my car’s in the shop as we speak due to progressive snapshot. The mechanics cannot figure out what is wrong with the car changed out numerous parts and still will not run. they hooked it up on the computer and it said nothing! so progressive is a piece of shit and will mess ur car up. I have never had any problems with my car since i purchased it 3 yrs ago

  36. I have snapshot 2 days know. One on my Nissan pathfinder with abs. And Suzuki esteem without abs. After 1 day drive. My wife drive,s the Suzuki esteem, she had 4 hard breaks, on the other hand. The Nissan pathfinder had 0 hard break,s. now this morning I had 1 hard break and you will hearing that by 3 bleeps. The guy passed me on the right cut me off and the stoplight turned red so I had to brake hard, now my opion about hard braking, if you have abs system in your car and you take a long brake distance every thing is fine. But my wife doesn’t have abs so when she start to brake her brake pad has to sqees harder on the rotor, to cum to a stop, abs stystem brakes like if you pump the brakes. So the hard braking has to do with your braking system, if you have bad braking pads on your Car. That need to be replaced. Is on of the reason . That can bee seen as hard braking. Or when your car is sensitif to braking when you push the brake paddle. So I drive like a old lady or as a truck driver that needs long brake distance to cum to a stop. Problem. Even if you or a safe driver, you need to drive like a old lady and as a truck driver at the same time, en brake with the tip off your feet . And other drivers will pass you from left and. Right cut you off so you have to brake hard. I think it,s funny see if I can get a discount, with stupid drivers on the road that tailgate you cut you off or pedestrian that hits the red light, every body knows if you drive in a city things happens beyond your driving skill. And progressif count hard braking, my opinion we or all bad drivers :-)

  37. contractorwolf’s photos are verrry interesting. The device appears to include an accelerometer and a gsm/gprs transceiver in addition to the arm based mcu sim and a few other cellphone components.

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