May 01, 2001, 1:04 PM — AT THE PROGRESSIVE CORP., CIO Ray Voelker has run a pilot auto insurance project that studies drivers' behavior here and now, rather than waiting to catch up with traffic tickets and accident reports. In the Autograph project, Progressive places a wireless GPS device in the dashboards of 500 cars of policyholders in Texas. By tracking where those cars go and when -- on the highway in the morning, late at night in a bar-heavy area of town, wherever -- the company determines the insurer's risk and the car owner's premiums.
Progressive, based in Mayfield Village, Ohio, is among a growing number of companies looking to harvest business value from layering location information onto applications of wireless technology. Thanks in part to federal regulations due out this year for the mobile phone industry, these companies are betting that location will do for wireless what the Web browser did for the Internet. IDC (a sister company to CIO's publisher, CXO Media) estimates that the market for location-based services