Who are better drivers? A competition conducted in June between Massachusetts and New York drivers has a data-based answer, but first you need to know that drivers from both states score among the lowest in the nation in safety (among the bottom 15). That said, Massachusetts drivers beat New Yorkers by 2 percent!
The EverDrive Safe Driving Challenge, which was based on mobile sensing technology developed by MIT faculty, enlisted tens of thousands of drivers who were attracted by a way to test their driving skills, the competitive fun, and, perhaps, the cash prizes.
The contest used a new app called EverDrive, developed by Cambridge Mobile Telematics (CMT), a company founded by MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence lab (CSAIL) researchers Hari Balakrishnan and Sam Madden ’99, MEng ’99. The app, built on CMT’s DriveWell program, measures dangerous practices that increase the chances of collisions: speeding, fast acceleration, hard turning, harsh braking, and phone distractions while driving.
The results showed that people tend to change how they drive when they get objective feedback on their behaviors, Madden says. “One of the consequences of the competition is that people began to drive better.” Those reductions in all unsafe driving practices by a majority of participants can be personally satisfying, but they also can reduce insurance rates—an interest of the co-sponsoring group, Everquote, an online insurance marketplace. In addition, some $50,000 in prize money was distributed to top drivers.
Other app incentives include social games, feedback to drivers, leaderboards, badges, as well as friendly competitions between towns. Some people signed up because they want to participate with their families because, for example, they were concerned about their teenager’s driving safety. “If you are competing with your kid, you can see their score,” he says.
“So many people know someone who has been affected by a car accident and they really want to do a good job of driving safely,” says Madden. “The app really does make them think about how they drive.”
Results of the contest, which began with a nationwide sweepstakes in April and ended with a two-week skills-based competition in June, included these points:
- Consistent EverDrive users rank as safer drivers, with phone use reduced by 37 percent during the competition.
- Majority of users improved by approximately 30 percent over two months.
- Best drivers hailed from in North Reading, MA, and Amherst, NY.
- Worst drivers come from Boston and New York City.
And how does Madden’s personal driving rank on EverDrive? “I ride my bike just about every day,” he says. “I do drive some on weekends and my problem is speeding. Some Massachusetts roads have very low speed limits. It’s pretty easy to speed on those roads.”
What’s next at Cambridge Mobile Telematics? Follow their blog for news and watch for projects involving video and mapping. And is it too late to test your skills? No, free iPhone and Android EverDrive apps will let you assess your driving.
Madden and Balakrishnan co-led MIT’s CarTel project. Madden, a professor of computer science at MIT, is the director of BigData@CSAIL. Balakrishnan, the Fujitsu Professor of Computer Science at MIT, is the director of Wireless@MIT.