Metromile 101: Privacy and Calculating Miles

We’ve received thousands of questions about car insurance coverage, billing, and more over the years. Today, an answer to one of the most common: “How does Metromile measure miles, and what does it mean for my privacy?”

How do you measure miles?

Metromile customers’ miles are calculated by a device called the Pulse. We believe the most significant risk factor for getting into an accident is mileage — if you aren’t on the road, your risk is quite low — and the Pulse device is the key to measuring this factor accurately. It connects to your car’s computer to keep an eye on mileage and act as a GPS device. Besides calculating miles, the Pulse device can decode a maintenance light in your car, alert you when you’re parked in a street sweeping zone, remind you where you parked, help you optimize fuel use, and more.

When you become a Metromile customer, you are covered as of the effective date of your policy, regardless of whether or not your Pulse device is plugged in. As you near your policy effective date, we will ship your Pulse device to you, and your job is to plug it into what’s called the OBD-II port in your vehicle — the same port your mechanic uses to diagnose issues.

If my driving is being tracked, how do you ensure my privacy?

The Pulse securely transmits data through a cell modem to update your account with trip information. No smartphone or Bluetooth pairing is needed. Metromile takes electronic, physical and procedural steps to help protect your personal information and has security personnel on-site that investigate and respond to issues. Your information is not sold or rented to third parties for marketing purposes.

Metromile also offers you some degree of control; customers can opt to disable the GPS function on their Pulse through the Metromile online dashboard, which means we won’t store your location data long term. Your miles will still be calculated accurately in this case, but it will mean that some of the bonus features that use your location, like street sweeping alerts, won’t work.

There you have it: no tricks, no games, no violations of your privacy. Just a way to offer you the fairest car insurance rates possible — and a few bonus features on top of that.

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Julianne Sawyer is a freelance writer, app producer, and real-life Metromile customer living in the San Francisco Bay Area.