We’ve been talking a lot lately about usage-based insurance models like the Metromile pay-per-mile model. The great thing about usage-based insurance is that you are only charged based on the miles you drive. So if you have a car, but don’t drive very far you could save a ton of money with pay-per-mile car insurance from Metromile. But have you ever wondered how we measure your miles? Usage-based insurance, and therefore Metromile’s pay-per-mile offering, wouldn’t be possible without the OBD-II port.
If your car was built after 1996 and has a gasoline engine, chances are high that it has an OBD-II port. The OBD, or on-board diagnostics port began as a way to measure a vehicle’s emissions. California, in particular, wanted a way to combat the growing issue of smog, so in 1966 they began to require emissions testing in all vehicles. This requirement was gradually adopted nationwide by 1968. In 1988, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) passed a requirement that all vehicles sold in the state include on-board diagnostics. This first port would become known as the OBD-I. If your car was made before 1996, you likely have the OBD-I. Today, all new vehicles nationwide are required to include the OBD-II port. This next-generation of diagnostics had evolved from emissions testing to monitoring other performance-related aspects of the car, like the engine and chassis.
Here’s how the OBD-II works:
- Your car has a Powertrain Control Module (PCM) that constantly monitors the engine. If it detects a problem, like excessive oil consumption, your ‘Check Engine’ or service light will come on and remain on until the issue is resolved.
- A repair technician can connect a scanner to the OBDII port, download your car’s data, confirm a diagnosis and start on the necessary repairs or resolution.
So, if something is wrong with your vehicle; ranging from engine malfunctions to tire pressure, the OBD-II port is the best way to diagnose the problem. In fact, the OBD system is even proving to be an important factor in reducing the damaging effects of car emissions on our environment. Since the introduction of the Clean Air Act and the OBD requirement, toxic emissions have steadily decreased. Companies are also developing devices to use in tandem with the OBD-II port in all sorts of new and inventive ways. For example, our per-mile insurance customers plug the Metromile Pulse device into the OBD-II port to measure exact mileage. This enables us to provide low-mileage drivers with a more fair insurance pricing model, since their monthly bill is based on the miles they drive, not just on a rough estimate (which other insurance companies sometimes offer a small discount for). We also use the Pulse to help drivers decode the mysterious check engine light without visiting the mechanic, see personal driving stats and avoid street sweeping tickets. We’ve even used GPS functionality on the Pulse to help recover stolen cars! Fleet management services are using OBD devices as well, allowing them to communicate with their vehicles in real-time and monitoring things like location, speed and driver behavior. With a recent Deloitte survey finding that 72% of smartphone users see value in connected car technology, we expect to see additional use cases of OBD devices in the near future.
Overall, the OBD-II port helps provide transparency into key operational features of your vehicle so that you can make every effort to keep your vehicle in the best possible shape. Even with the amount of data provided, you should always make sure to stay up-to-date with your car’s maintenance schedule. Don’t delay changing your oil or overlook a Check Engine light that stays on.
The OBD-II port is a great example of the evolution vehicles have gone through over the decades. What began as a way to test emissions has evolved into the portal for mechanics and drivers to obtain data about cars and fix potential problems. For Metromile, the OBD-II is how we have unleashed the awesome amount of data to make driving less of a headache and enable drivers to make savvier decisions. Want to see the power of an OBD device in action? Learn more about Metromile’s per-mile insurance offering and get a free quote now.