Standalone hardware vs smartphone apps

One of the biggest choices that insurance companies are contending with at the moment, isn’t whether or not they should begin using telematics hardware to help augment their current insurance policies (they will) but whether they should go down the more cost effective route of smartphone applications, or whether standalone and specifically designed hardware and software packages would be a better choice. Cost is likely a big factor to consider, but so is effectiveness, which is why the Driveway Software Data challenge is looking to pit them against one another to find out which is best.

The study is set to take place over three weeks throughout August and September, with three drivers using two different insurance telematics devices: a smartphone running an American UBI or Usage Based Insurance application, and an onboard diagnostic device, specifically designed to track information on the driver and the car itself.

Data gathered by the trackers throughout the test will include the time of driving, distance driven, location accuracy, braking and acceleration and even cornering. Both tools will also generate an overall profile for the driver, which in this fictional scenario, the insurer could then use to apply changes to their premium based on their performance. Based on how we know the drivers operated, we’ll be able to determine which is the most accurate of devices.


In a slightly more lighthearted aspect of the study, it’s been revealed that Driveway, the company behind this challenge, will be using its own executives as the driving guinea pigs. Jake Diner, Igor Katsman and John Baker will all be tracked over the three week period and by the end of this challenge, we’ll know which of them is the safest driver, regardless of which tracker maps this out for us most accurately. Each of them will be judged on the Driveway scale of performance, which has used data from its 150,000 strong userbase to determine driver safety. This will ultimately give them a rating of 1-100 based on their driving skills.

The results from the trial run will be revealed in September at the Insurance Telematics USA 2014 conference in Chicago. If you’re not able to attend, summaries of the report and of the event itself can be found here and you can even vote to see which of the three executives you think will be the safest driver of the lot.

To help make your decision, Driveway has released some details on each of those taking part. Jake, who’s described as “the sleep deprived,” has a three month old baby waking him up regularly, so is expected to be tired while driving. He’ll be behind the wheel of a Lexis SC 430 with an average yearly mileage of 14,000. He’s also married and aged 40. Igor on the other hand, is “the distracted” driver, also 40, but single and driving a Toyota Yaris. He’s not a native though, having grown up in Israel.

The final participant is John, the “lead foot,” who drives a Ford Expedition 4×4, has an average mileage over 20,000 per year and is 50 years old. He likes to drive faster than the others so seems unlikely to be the safest, but time will tell.

    Jon Martindale

    Jon Martindale is an English author and journalist, who's written for a number of high-profile technology news outlets, covering everything from the latest hardware and software releases, to hacking scandals and online activism.

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