Your smartphone knows if you're a good driver [CNN Money]

August 18, 2016

Want to prove you’re a better driver than your friends? There’s a growing list of apps to do just that.

These apps look at information collected from a smartphone’s GPS, accelerometer and gyroscope to sense if you brake or accelerate sharply, determine how fast you drive, and whether you make jerky turns.

Not surprisingly, insurance companies have an increased interest in obtaining the data collected on drivers’ smartphones. The information will be used to understand what type of driver you are, and the companies say your rates won’t go up as a result.

In fact, U.S. -based insurers such as Liberty Mutual, Allstate (ALL) and State Farm offer programs for drivers to receive a car insurance discount for submitting such information.

That’s because insurance companies believe smartphone data can be a remarkably effective predictor or how likely someone is to be in a crash.

“It changes the whole way insurance works,” said Anton Ossip, the chief executive of South African company Discovery Insure.

Ossip considers smartphone apps as the biggest innovation the insurance industry has seen in a decade.

Previously, insurance companies had to rely on a driver’s gender, age and location to determine their risk of being in a crash. Now, access to whether or not you regularly slam the brakes is something that can help predict how safe a driver you are.

Drivers who regularly brake hard are likely struggling to anticipate what lies ahead, making them more at risk for a mishap. These insurance companies consider how a driver brakes along with many other factors to determine what to charge them.

People are rewarded for handing over their smartphone data with lower rates. Some also believe the concept encourages good driving behavior.

“Safe drivers are made, not born,” said Hari Balakrishnan, founder of Cambridge Mobile Telematics. ” With the right kind of information, feedback, incentives, rewards and games with leaderboards, people can actually become better drivers.”

Balakrishnan, who is also a professor at MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, has spent five years looking at what smartphone data tells us about drivers. His company has active programs in over 14 countries and works with multiple insurance companies.

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