Electronic Driver Monitoring

Mentor by eDrivingWould you voluntarily submit to electronic monitoring of your vehicle in order to save money on insurance? I've been thinking about this lately in the context of my experience with an electronic driver monitoring app, our current concerns with ICBC rates and the seeming lack of consequences for drivers who don't follow the rules. With the right privacy safeguards this could safely and efficiently solve a number of problems.

Insurance rates are set based on the cost of providing the protection divided up among us based on the risk that we present for causing a loss. Currently, I suspect that the only guide ICBC has for setting rates outside of the direction of our politicians, is a general average based on the vehicle type, gender, age, the place where the majority of our driving takes place and our crash history.

If you were an insurance company, would you prefer a client who was willing to demonstrate to you on a continuing basis that they followed safe driving practices?

With the technology that exists right now, we could go even further than that. Rates could be set according to the number of kilometers driven and the actual roads that the driving takes place on. Other risk factors that could be considered include time of day, day of week, volume of traffic and even season of the year.

That collector car you have that sees only a few leisurely kilometers driven during the weekend on summer months on quiet roads could carry sigificantly less risk and a lower premium than the sports car that is driven roughly every weekday during rush hour on the freeway.

The driving app that I am using knows where I am, when I am driving, how fast I travel, whether I accelerate or brake abruptly and if I make sudden moves changing lanes or turning. At the end of my trip I am presented with an evaluation and shown where it thinks I have been driving in a less than safe manner.

A mechanism exists to dispute it's findings as well. The rating I earn can be revised if I can justify the change.

Knowing how well I am doing through feedback would be an incentive to do better. I could choose to try harder on my own or to take training that would help me improve.

If I knew that my data was only given to ICBC, was only used to set my insurance rate and could not be given to anyone else for any other purpose without a court order or my permission, I think that I might be willing to give it a try in return for paying smaller premiums.

Some of us may have a problem with volunteering for a program like this and some likely prefer the current system where they can drive as they wish to and take their chances with getting caught. This could be accommodated too, simply be prepared to forego the discount.

Instead of penalty points for those drivers convicted of moving violations, being sentenced to a term of electronic monitoring might be appropriate. If the violation was inadvertant, the consequences of the monitoring could be much different than if would be for drivers who continued to drive irresponsibly.

ICBC is currently conducting a trial of two systems that prevent cell phone use while the vehicle is moving unless the call is to 911. Both of these can also monitor driving behaviour the way that the Mentor app I use does according to the web sites of their manufacturers. I wonder if this is the start of data gathering on driver behaviour in addition to cell phone blocking.


prevent cell phone use while the vehicle is moving

My iPhone already has this feature as part of a recent OS update.

Electronic Driver Monitoring

I would not sign up.

From what was written the only things being monitored is speed, abruptness of braking and steering. Time of day, routes taken, kilometers definitely factor in but then there is a similar system in place where our rates currently are set by our location.

If they would monitor appropriate lane usage, signalling for lane changes & turns with enough notice to improve traffic flow, using correct headlight beam for safety of self and on-coming traffic, not impeding traffic, distance between vehicles, vehicle maintenance and appropriate tires, courtesy to other drivers and pedestrians. There is so many other aspects of driving that come in to whether one is a safe driver or not that just do not get monitored.

Which brings me back to my usual complaint. If the cops would enforce a few more rules of the road other than speeding, cell phone, impaired and seat belt usage I believe we would see a reduction in accidents. As it is all they are interested in is enforcing the easiest.

Why is it Canada is way down on the list of highway safety yet countries that have higher speed limits have lower accident rates?

It is time we started looking at all aspects of driving rather than a select few.

Monitoring phone and driving

As well as scores for phone use, the Cellcontrol app gives a set of driving scores for each trip consisting of the following: Braking, Cornering, Acceleration, Speeding, Aggressiveness

You can view the route of each trip on a map, sometimes weirdly incorrect in parts, and usually, but not always, see where and when points were lost for each trip.

Based on my use of this software over the last two weeks and getting an average phone score 100/100 and drive score 98/100 I have some concerns about the accuracy, even though I received only 2 out of 100 off a "perfect" score.

Braking - Most of the points I lost were for "mild braking" events where I do not think marks should have been lost. I correlate these events with a few times when I approached a traffic light, the light changed to amber before I had reached the point of no return, and I braked smoothly to stop for the light as required when this can be done safely. Never exceeded the limit while approaching the intersection and no sudden stopping.

Cornering - No loss of points recorded

Acceleration - a couple of points lost for rapid acceleration that I found puzzling as I do not use the rapid acceleration that my Electric Vehicle is capable of. I wonder if the sensor can distinguish properly between potholes or bunps and rapid acceleration since at least one event was reported on a straight stretch between intersections.

Speeding - I don't think the device/app knew when I was speeding as I know I have driven at 55 km/hr in a 50 km/hr zone e.g. on roads where the average speed was 60 km/hr, yet lost no points for speeding. Where the traffic averaged 65 to 70 km/hr, e.g. down the hill on Southridge Drive, Bby, I may have reached close to 60 km/hr.

Aggressiveness - I lost points for agressive driving events twice, but the device/app didn't say where. One of the events was recorded with a time a few seconds before the trip had started, so must have been recorded while I was still in the garage, which I back out of extremely slowly due to limited visibility in the lane.

I conclude that most of the points the app docked for parameters other than speeding should not have been taken off, but the app failed to take any points off for speeding that had happened.

As well as concerns about accuracy,  I have concerns about privacy, specifically about the possibility for all the data that is reported by the app being used by third parties for purposes not related to intended uses such as insurance,  discouraging unsafe driving, or assisting in enforcement of driving laws. Given the commercial value of personal data on travel patterns, there is a risk of serious breaches of privacy similar to other well-known apps.

Technology required is not accessible

Unfortunately all these systems rely on equipment that was never intended for this kind of use: Accelerometers and GPS

Cellular phones have processors that were stuffed with all the useful features that the designers could think of. We have silicon based accelerometer, barometers and even a satellite receiver (GPS).
The accelerometer on a typical cellphone CPU is prone to artifacting and a software algorithm is constantly adjusting the unrealistic peaks along the 3D axis. The spikes can be caused by many things, its a fact of life that these accelerometers are not precise devices. There is a separate class of devices called gyrocompases, typically installed on ICBMs and Cruise Missiles, which can be relied to with-in meters over a thousand kilometers. Those are restricted technology. Any consumer technology will be nerfed to not replicate the precision of those devices for national security reasons. We don't want people to build precise cruise missiles using cellphones.

GPS - US Army network of satellites which broadcast a unique signature and a relatively imprecise timestamp which your phone receives. 7-8 satellites are required to be seen by your antenna to provide an accuracy with-in 2-3 meters, but usually with-in 10 meters. The GPS network also broadcasts a much more precise timestamp which enables GPS precision with-in 20 cm. That broadcast is encrypted and is off-limits to general population. We don't want people to build precise cruise missiles.

Because of the limited access to the truly precise stuff, all these apps and dedicated monitoring devices are only marginally precise. Algorithms are hard at work hundreds of times per second leveling out the artefacts and cutting peaks. Everyone has seen their GPS position jump back and forth wildly from spot to spot, while they were not actually moving - that happens because software is applied to hardware sensors which are outputting a really garbage signal.  That means all monitoring devices/applications would have to adopt some kind of strategy of fighting these inconveniences - some will forgo somethings, and some will down-mark based on false data.

But even if there was suddenly access to really precise reliable technology, do we really want to tie our money to the judgement of a mostly blind machine?

Currently, today, any day, there are hundreds of thousands of motorists zooming happily along the roads equipped with cellphones, which are systemically tracked (where do you think Google Maps gets its traffic info?). Most cellphones have a credit card / credit account attached. Most drivers speed, even if they don't consider it, as well as don't Stop fully at Stop signs or when turning right at the traffic light.

I position that right now, as in today, we have the ability to lawfully ticket every single vehicle owner electronically for speeding based off their cellphone tracking (averaging their speed from A to B) and take their money from their credit cards or charge it to their cellphone accounts. Considering that the average driver commits a ticket-able offense every few blocks, we could literally take $2,000-$5,000 from someone in just a day of driving.

What kind of uproar do you think this would cause? But whats the problem - they were all speeding or not stopping proprely, which was legitimately recorded, and the appropriate amount of money got charged.

That's where we come to the realization that the "lack-luster" enforcement is a necessary part of the system that provides punishment for actions that don't realistically affect anyone.
So before we move to an absolutely tracked system we must demand absolute victim tracking as well.

Because what good is the law in a lawful society if it punishes society members for seemly doing no harm.
The only reason it works now is because of the loose enforcement.

Personally I think we should move to a negative point system with no monetary penalties at all. The only penalty should be the removal of the offender from the road once the "unsafe allowance" has been spent.
Unsafe - meaning affecting other road users - unsafe lane switches, failure to give the right of way, and a whole bunch of other conditions in the top-10 accident causing indiscretions as per ICBC data (speeding is #11 btw).

Dedicated Module

Why use a cell phone instead of a dedicated module that plugs onto the OBD port? Speed could be double checked from there.

Apparently GPS chips can be quite accurate.

Thats GNSS chips ;)

Which includes Glonass (Russia), Galileo (EU) and Beidou (China), and those folks apparently don't mind giving public access to the accuracy with-in 30 cm.
The GPS (US) network signal will likely to remain the same for consumers.

In either case, I am pro automated monitoring and enforcement....

But not with-in the current "system" that brainwashes the masses into believing that road-toll is growing, or drivers are getting worse, or that the pandemonium on the roads is killing our children; all with an aim to increase the fines and collect-ability thereof (i.e. fines for touching a phone at a red light). While in reality, with every new safety tech being made default and the old fleet aging out - the amount of death and injury is steadily going down year after year; oh and with absolutely no correlation whatsoever to the cellphone adoption trend. The power that be then turn around and tell everyone - see - the fines are working - less deaths and injuries - woo hoo! All the while they are issuing more and more tickets every year.... If fines are meant to make drivers safer - wouldn't it follow that once everyone got a fine there would  be less and less fines?

If we move to any potential 100% enforcement systems, which are now possible, those must be based solely and judicailly on the engineer's input. No more highways designed and signed off by the engineers to be fit for 120km/h and putting up a 60-70km/h signs because the local residents can't find anything better to do than to pester and whine. And no monetary penalty - you get an X number of points per week on your license, and once those are spent - maybe even within 10 meters, depending on your driving - no more driving till the next week. Strike out 3 weeks in a row - get a month worth prohibition. Believe me - everyone will be driving like saints. (And some will just give up their licenses)

And in-addition to the 100% enforcement, current undesirable actions should be programmatically made impossible to perform in a typical car by default:

- Can't start the car with-out a valid/connected driver's license
- Can't move though a stop sign / alleyway with-out stopping
- Can't move through the red-light - car's brakes lock up
- Can't move with no seat-belt
- Can't move with obstruction in-front and back
- Can't continue moving along the road with emergency vehicles coming through
- Can't change lanes into obstruction
- Can't ride up closer than 2 seconds to the car ahead

P.S. This won't be possible until there's an actual alternative transportation method that is comparable - i.e.  fully autonomous self-driving cars or uber-cheap Uber. Because, lets face it, the system in North America is built on assumption of 1.5 cars per family and most every person of age of majority holds a valid driver's license. We have so many cars here because we are built for so many cars.

My vehicle has a unit that monitors things.

 It stores speed etc... and when an accident happens it can be accessed afterward. I don't think having big brother watching things is a good idea..we have enough of that from all different venues, areas, and media... to save money - we are already there - just penalize the guys who screw up and that's good enough for me... besides I don't think that would save very much.

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