Application may help drivers be safer on the roads

Published: November 2, 2015

Updated: July 24, 2018

Author: Luke Jones

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Most people probably consider themselves safe drivers, but according to a startup specializing in driver-data-analysis, many road users may not be as safe as they think. Indeed, MIT alumnus Brad Cordova SM '13, co-founder of Censio, a driver analytics firm, many people’s perception of what constitutes safe driving may be wrong.

Cordova says. "For most of us, the most dangerous thing you do from day to day is driving”. Indeed, even moderate and well-tempered drivers may engage in unsafe practices such as tailgating, using cellphones, changing lanes too quickly, and of course speeding.

The Canadian Automobile Association says that cellular phones are the number one cause of unsafe driving, or distracted driving as it is sometimes called. Drivers using a cell phone while operating their vehicle are 23 times more likely to be involved in a collision. Worse, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said in 2010 that 80% of all accidents are a result of distracted driving. The CAA lists the following as common crash related distractions:

  • Text messaging (or texting) on a cell phone — 23 times more likely
  • Talking on a cell phone — 4 to 5 times more likely
  • Reading — 3 times more likely
  • Applying makeup — 3 times more likely
  • Reaching for a moving object — 9 times more likely
  • Dialing on a hand-held device — 3 times more likely
  • Talking or listening on a hand-held device — 1.3 times more likely

Startup company Censio thinks it can combat driver distraction and ultimately save lives. The company has created a mobile application that analyzes driver habits and relays the data back to the vehicle operator to help them adapt their driving to be safer. Cordova says the app will tell drivers when their driving is risky and will do the heavy analytical thinking that the driver cannot.

"The human brain is not good at statistics and probability, so most people aren't thinking how sending this text will affect their probability of getting into an accident," he says. "We calculate these complicated probability distributions and send that back to the app in a very digestible way."