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Smarter driving, using your phone [MIT News]

January 5, 2016

Mobile-based telematics — apps and hardware that measure driving behaviors — may be the future of safer roads. Increasingly, people are using these technologies to improve their own driving habits, while insurance companies use the data to offer rewards and discounts to safe drivers.

One of the most prominent companies — and one of the first — in this market is Cambridge Mobile Telematics (CMT). Co-founded in 2010 by MIT professors Hari Balakrishnan and Sam Madden, CMT develops incentive-based apps for safe driving that are being used worldwide, with aims of making drivers better and roads safer.

DriveWell, CMT’s flagship app, is based on years of MIT research and runs in the background on a smartphone, collecting data to detect road types, driving smoothness, speeding, phone distraction, and other factors. Drivers receive a score on a scale from 1 to 100, along with route maps and tips for improvement. Scores can be used for insurance discounts and prizes while competing with friends and other drivers worldwide.

In South Africa, a version of the app has been used for a nationwide safe-driving contest, where tens of thousands of drivers competed for prizes. Results indicated that safe driving increased by more than 30 percent during the contest.

“Many people blame phones for causing accidents, but we are demonstrating the possibility of using smartphones to make driving safer,” says Balakrishnan, MIT’s Fujitsu Professor in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science.

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