Zendrive Snapshot Yields Granular Insights on Driving Risk

The study yielded sometimes counter-intuitive insights about local driving risk that are potentially useful for both drivers and insurers and point to more dynamic approaches to underwriting.

(Screenshot of Zendrive interactive map of the San Francisco Bay Area.)

Being able to gauge the safety of one’s commuting route is potentially very valuable information for a driver—but also for a driver’s insurer. Zendrive, the San Francisco-based creator of a mobile driver analytics platform, recently conducted a study it calls the Zendrive Bay Area Commute Safety Snapshot, which yielded some interesting and sometimes counter-intuitive insights about driving risk in the San Francisco that are potentially useful for both drivers and insurers—as they imply possibilities of more dynamic and granular underwriting. The study produced the first of a series of Snapshots Zendrive intends to produce, along with the first of several interactive maps drivers can use.

Jonathan Matus, CEO, Zendrive.

Among the study’s findings were that the riskiest time to drive was during lunch rather than at either ends of the daily commute (11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.), and that the safest commute time was 6:00 to 7:00 a.m. Over half of the routes are more than 3 percent riskier during lunch hours, and no single route is safer during lunch period compared to any other period in the day. The study also identified the Bay Bridge with the riskiest commute (San Mateo Bridge) and the best and worst routes in the San Francisco Bay area (worst: I-280; best: the Oakland-to-San Francisco route on I-580—with U.S. 101 the safest highway overall, with four of the five safest routes). The Golden Gate Bridge proved to be the safest of the Bay Area’s five major bridges.

“While the snapshot is meant as a resource for drivers to plot the least risky routes and departure times for their commutes, it’s based on same kind data we use to help insurers measure dangerous driving behaviors,” comments Jonathan Matus, Zendrive’s CEO.

The Zendrive Bay Area Commute Safety Snapshot arose out of the vendor’s distracted driver behavior study. Released in April 2017 that study found that Americans use their phones 88 percent of the time they get behind the wheel. Zendrive notes that traffic safety experts have called attention to a 14 percent spike in traffic deaths between 2015 and 2016—the greatest increase 50 years—with distracted driving being a major contributor.

Graph showing peak risk time from the Snapshot study. Source: Zendrive.

Zendrive reports that it uses the sensors in smartphones to measure and analyze driver behavior in real-time. With more than 50 billion miles analyzed to date. The firm touts its ability, Zendrive’s ability to predict collisions as being up to six times more accurate than the auto insurance industry’s leaders, according to leading actuarial firm Milliman.

A World of New Data for Insurers to Access

“There is a world of new data waiting for insurers to find, analyze, and use to create better products, price more accurately, and underwrite more effectively,” comments Donald Light, Director, North America Property/Casualty Practice, Celent. “Telematics apps for smart phones are a natural for collecting one emerging type of new data: distracted driving, in particular drivers driving heads-down gazing at their phone, rather than heads-up looking at the road.”

However, this approach does not exhaust the sources of distracted driving data alone, Light notes. “Inward-facing web cams are another potential source,” he notes. “Data from cars on-board computers can indicate use of infotainment systems, constant cooling and heating adjustments, and even long soulful conversations with Alexa on the way home. This is a great time for data discovery—leading to safer roadways.”

Donald Light, Director, North America Property/Casualty Practice, Celent.

For the Bay Area Commute Safety Snapshot, Zendrive aggregated and anonymized 100,000 individual Bay Area drivers, commuting to and from San Francisco, throughout the day during the month of November 2017. The study was based on the following driving behaviors: phone use (handheld, hands-free; texting/emailing; and physically engaging with a phone while the vehicle is moving), rapid acceleration, speeding, and hard braking.

Among additional findings of the study are the following:

  • Richmond San Rafael Bridge is consistently safe throughout the day.
  • Traffic is highest on the Bay Bridge throughout the day, Proportionally you can see HardBrake and PhoneUse event counts higher, That’s why even though number of events are higher on this bridge doesn’t make it riskier.
  • San Mateo bridge has second highest traffic on average, and proportionally, the second highest phone use and hard brake events.
  • The Golden Gate Bridge has relatively less traffic on average, but proportionally much less hard brake events and almost no speeding events, which makes it a safer bridge.
  • San Mateo Bridge has the second highest traffic on average, and proportionally the second most phone use and hard brake events.

“For decades, insurers were hoping to be able to assess driving risk based on exact location and time, but couldn’t due to lack of rich, trustworthy data,” comments Zendrive’s Matus. “What Zendrive built here is exactly that, and can provide a significant actuarial edge, as it is based on insights from more than 50 billion miles analyzed.”

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Anthony R. O’Donnell // Anthony O'Donnell is Executive Editor of Insurance Innovation Reporter. For over a decade he has been an observer and commentator on the use of information technology in the insurance industry, following industry trends and writing about the use of IT across all sectors of the insurance industry. He can be reached at AnthODonnell@IIReporter.com or (503) 936-2803.

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