I was doing so well. Steadily climbing up the leaderboard, collecting points, getting virtual pats on the back and offers of discounted insurance premiums. I was in the top 10 of drivers nationally. Until I needed to get to my destination in a hurry. My once nearly spotless driving record was history. That’s how we roll with the Discovery Insure app. Sebastian Vettel one day, Mr Bean the next.
Of considerably more concern, I was now a decided risk, relegated to the bottom 50 per cent of drivers. Of male drivers, mind you. Harsh cornering? Red star. Harsh braking? Red star. Harsh acceleration? Yes, that’s right: red. My self-esteem was trashed. This is not exactly how it’s supposed to be.
The Insure app is just the latest clever idea from Discovery. You know, the people who bought you medical aid that became wellness, became loyalty scheme, became insurance and so forth. Discovery says its app is a global first. They way they describe it, the app “(combines) mobile technology and behavioural economics to create better drivers and improve road safety”. They’ve leveraged the behavioural insights (heaven knows what that means) gleaned from their wellness programmes.
Given that most accidents are caused by the driver, this is all probably a good thing.
The app is available as a free download from the Apple App Store or Google Play Store. You don’t even have to be a Discovery Insure client to use it. Although, if you aren’t a client, you’ll be continually seduced into signing up.
Using the smartphone’s accelerometer and GPS, the app analyses your driving. Besides star ratings for braking, cornering and acceleration, it ranks you against other drivers. It can get quite… um… competitive.
The app is meant, like all of these kinds of systems (some of them built into cars), to do more than just monitor performance. It also encourages good driving habits by rewarding good performance. It also provides tips for improving.
Now, I’m all for personal improvement. I’m not so sure, though, that I like not being able to respond when my digital companion (a little smugly, it seems) points out my shortcomings. I get enough of that from my real-life companion, thank you.
One of the many experts said to have been involved in developing the app is local-boy-made-good Rory Byrne. He’s a man who can speak with authority on the subject of measuring car and driver behaviour. After all, his storied career in Formula 1 design spanned the transition into the new era of telematics.
It’s important, Byrne believes, to provide the trip details while they are still fresh in the user’s mind. That makes it more likely for them to recall their risky driver behaviours and change them, he says. He hasn’t missed the competitive aspect, either: “We think the leaderboards will play a positive role in changing driver behaviour positively.”
Clearly, this does not include recognition of the sort that awards style points for drifting, outdragging warmed-up Honda CR-Vs and generally behaving like a boy.
As always, there’s a monetary incentive: the Discovery Insure Driver Challenge. This competition runs until the 31st of August 2014. It involves weekly draws for a share of R1 million in petrol vouchers and a grand prize of a trip for four to the Monaco Grand Prix.
Worryingly, I am also not so sure that Discovery needs quite as many personal details from me as their signing-up process demands. And whether they need to know where I am and what I’m up to. Or whether somebody else – Big Brother perhaps – might be interested, too. We do tend to be quite blase about who knows what about our comings and goings. (Although, in fairness, perhaps I worry too much.)
On reflection, perhaps I dropped out of the top 10 because more people began downloading the app. Perhaps the app is broken. Or perhaps I’m merely fooling myself and I’m just not as good as I think I am. For that matter, are you?