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Will Car-Tracking Phone Alter Insurance Rates?

Answer Financial has done a soft launch on a new smartphone app that can detect safe driving habits and turn that into discounts on auto insurance premiums. But the Encino insurance brokerage has not done a lot of marketing for the free Streetwise Drivers Club app yet. It is still seeing how customers will react to it and the demographics of who would use it. Still, Chief Executive Rob Slingerland said the company was genuinely excited about offering the program. “It’s where insurance is heading,” Slingerland said. “It’s app-based, it gives feedback, it has rewards and interaction.” Answer Financial was founded in 1997 and acquired in 2011 by Allstate Corp., the largest publicly held personal line insurer in the U.S. The company has about 200 employees in Encino and another 400 working in other offices, primarily in Knoxville, Tenn. The company represents about 20 major insurance carriers, allowing customers to compare rates, coverage and features. It also works with banks and financial institutions to make insurance products available to their customers. The idea for the Streetwise Drivers Club was the result of research in the insurance industry of using telematics to determine if a driver is likely to get in an accident. Until now, insurance companies looked at such factors as occupation, marital status, family status, how many years driving and prior claims to predict if a driver would get in an accident. With technology, the same type of analysis can use date from an app that measures speed, hard breaking and hard cornering when driving. “That is much more predictive of someone’s likelihood to have a claim or accident in the future,” Slingerland said. The app is available for free download for both Apple and Android smartphones. There is no requirement to be shopping for a new insurance policy in order to use the app, Slingerland said. As of early June, two insurance carrier partners were making discounts available to drivers judged by the app to be driving safely. Within a year, Answer wants to have a majority of its 20 carriers offering discounts. Slingerland uses the app and has learned a few things about himself. “I’ve discovered I’m a lousy driver,” he said. “I apparently have a lead foot.” Software Firm Sold Engineering services firm CSM Software has been sold to Solize Group, an engineering and consultancy firm based in Japan. CSM is headquartered in Livonia, Mich. and has an office in Thousand Oaks for marketing and business development. Kirit Sarvaiya, vice president of marketing and sales, said it was likely the new owners will maintain the company’s presence in the Conejo Valley. “We are going to continue with global marketing through this office,” Sarvaiya said. CMS is based in Michigan because it primarily serves the automotive industry with outsourced engineering services. With high profile carmakers like Tesla Motors Inc., in Palo Alto, and Karma Automotive LLC opening shop in California, it makes sense to keep a presence in the state, Sarvaiya said. CSM Software, which also has a large facility in Bangalore, India, was founded in 1992 by Ramakrishna Narayanaswami, a resident of Westlake Village. The company performs product design, mechanical analysis and prototype creation for components and tooling used in the manufacturing process. With the acquisition, Solize Group receives complementary services to its produce design and model-based development offerings as well as entry in new markets, Sarvaiya said. “It adds to their capabilities as well as gives them geographical reach into markets in the U.S. and Europe where they had not been,” he added. The combined companies have about 1,700 employees. State Recognition Precision Labs received the Small Business of the Year Award for the 36th Assembly District during a ceremony in Sacramento in late May. Terry Norris, chief executive of the Palmdale manufacturing equipment calibration firm, accepted the award along with his wife, Silvia, and their three children on May 25. Thirty-Sixth District Assemblyman Tom Lackey (R-Palmdale) nominated Norris for the recognition. “For more than 20 years, they have been a gem in the Antelope Valley,” Lackey said in a statement. “It is an amazing company that is known for top-notch service and being Antelope Valley’s first Net Zero Energy Commercial Building.” Starting in 2014, Norris made improvements to his building that included solar panels, LED lights, earlier work shifts, timers on lights and refrigerators and additional insulation to get his company using less energy than it produces. The couple started Precision 21 years ago after they met while working at a calibration lab in the San Fernando Valley. Terry Norris picked up his technical expertise in calibrating equipment while serving in the Marines. Staff Reporter Mark R. Madler can be reached at (818) 316-3126 or mmadler@sfvbj.com.

Mark Madler
Mark Madler
Mark R. Madler covers aviation & aerospace, manufacturing, technology, automotive & transportation, media & entertainment and the Antelope Valley. He joined the company in February 2006. Madler previously worked as a reporter for the Burbank Leader. Before that, he was a reporter for the City News Bureau of Chicago and several daily newspapers in the suburban Chicago area. He has a bachelor’s of science degree in journalism from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.
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