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Am I a Safe Driver, Good Driver, or Not?

A discussion on how technology measures driving behaviour, and how people respond to feedback.

2 minute read

Don’t worry; you’re not a bad driver! Racecar drivers are typically considered good drivers, but if you drive like you are trying to win a race during rush hour traffic, I suspect that people won’t think you’re driving safely. Here, technology can help us encourage safer driving by using GPS and the sensors embedded in your mobile phone. With these technologies, we can detect any harsh driving events accurately. However, if we tell people that they’re a bad driver, or are a dangerous driver, or offer any other negative value judgement, we risk coming across as too judgmental. This may ultimately cause alienating users and stopping them listen to our advice.

There’s plenty of great advice on how to be a safer driver. For example, staying on top of maintenance and practicing defensive driving are just two of them. Unfortunately, there’s just no objective way to measure these things with relatively cheap technology in a way that’s easy for users. For example, if the onramp to a freeway is older, it might be quite short, requiring you to accelerate quickly in order to get up to speed to merge into traffic safely. This is by far the safe thing to do; however, it’s common for such an event to register as a dangerous harsh acceleration event using today’s telematics technology. If we were to report this to a user as bad driving when they know it was the right thing to do, the disconnect could cause some users to abandon telematics technology altogether. After all, why should they put effort into a technology that they know is giving them incorrect results?

That’s why to make sure that advances in technology to measure driving behavior are accepted by end-users—to incentivize safer driving—it’s not enough to dangle rewards in front of people. Technology providers need to ensure that drivers aren’t punished unnecessarily for events that can easily be taken out of context, being labeled harsh, unsafe, or bad, when human judgement might say otherwise. This also means that messaging needs to focus on helping people become better, safer drivers without labeling them as bad. Aggressive messaging full of value judgement is self-defeating in the long term, doesn’t help people drive safer, and certainly doesn’t provide value to drivers.

That’s why at Allegory, we focus on encouraging safe driving over the long term. We don’t believe people should be penalized for small mistakes, so we calculate an overall driving score as a rolling average, de-emphasizing scores for individual trips but also show where such dangerous events occurred. This way, as you work to improve your driving, singular events can get zeroed out after a time. As we improve our offering to include the Allegory Smart Dashcam, we can even add further context to any harsh event, making better decisions to encourage safer driving.

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