Big Data

MetroMile expands its mission to get cheaper insurance rates for those who drive less

Above: MetroMile's Steve Pretre and Dan Preston

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MetroMile believes that people who drive less should be rewarded with cheaper car insurance.

The Bay Area-based team developed a device called the Metronome, which can be plugged into a car to monitor how you drive. People who don’t take their car out very often will save money, as MetroMile also offers insurance, which prices on a per mile basis.

The Metronome device

Above: The Metronome device

The company announced today that it has expanded from Oregon into Washington State. It has also introduced a mobile app, which drivers can use to track their habits. The app will also notify you when a potential problem arises, so you can go to the mechanic long before your car breaks down on the highway, or you see smoke billowing from its engine.

“The app will give you insights into the cost of insurance, and the health of your car,” said cofounder and chairman David Friedberg by phone.

According to the founders, the service is designed for people who live in cities like Seattle and Portland, and drive sporadically. Metronome customers generally pay between 2 cents and 6 cents per mile, and $15 to $40 as a monthly base rate.

The MetroMile service competes with Zubie, a connected car gadget that was incubated at Best Buy. However, most of the alternatives to traditional car insurance will prioritize whether you’re a safe driver — and not how frequently you drive.

[Full disclosure: Zubie chief executive Tim Kelly is also the father of VentureBeat reporter Meghan Kelly.]

MetroMile makes money with its insurance product, and sales of the Metronome device. However, the first 10,000 people who sign up from today will receive a Metronome free of charge.

According to Friedberg, MetroMile’s solution is sustainable as it does not bear the brunt of the risk. The company has partnered up with the National General Insurance Company, which provides financial backing and an insurance license in each state.

Friedberg recently sold his company The Climate Corporation to Monsanto for a massive $930 million. Prior to that, he was a founding member of Google’s corporate development team. MetroMile’s chief executive, Steve Pretre, has years of experience working on consumer “big data” applications, and CTO Dan Preston sold his previous company AisleBuyer to Intuit.

In future, Pretre and Preston hinted that you’ll gain insight into traffic in real time via the app. The startup also plans to launch in cities around the country, and potentially make a new source of revenue by offering consumers cheaper car repairs.

The founders are also passionate about the company’s eco-friendly mission. MetroMile can provide drivers with data about the emissions and pollution they are creating from those miles. This may prompt people to drive less, and walk or take public transportation.

Metromile has raised $14 million from international venture firms, including Index Ventures and NEA.

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