Back when most of us were still using flip phones, MIT professor Hari Balakrishnan realized mobile technology – with its built in GPS and gyroscopes – offered insight into the way people drive. As phones became both more central to our lives, two things soon became apparent: they were creating a distraction for drivers and it didn’t necessarily have to be that way.
“We had this idea that we could use smart phones to actually make people better drivers,” said Balakrishnan.
Today he runs a Kendall Square company called Cambridge Mobile Telematics. His latest project is a mobile app he developed for the city of Boston called “Boston’s Safest Driver”.
“What we’re measuring are factors that are correlated with or, in fact, cause traffic crashes,” he said, as he scrolled through the app on his mobile phone. Every time he gets behind the wheel, it measures speed, how hard he hits the brakes, how quickly he takes a turn and if he uses his phone. Then it calculates a score out of possible 100 points.
“So 92-point-five is my score,” said Balakrishnan. “I tell my family and friends the reason I have such a low score is, for research purposes, I end up performing some harsh maneuvers.”