Following recent news of Apple building a crowdsourced traffic service to launch in the next few years, it’ll be interesting to see whether competitors and third-party developers will start playing around with more car-oriented and traffic-based services for iOS devices. Insurance company State Farm — which I had never heard of before, but it turns out they’re pretty huge in the United States — released a new iPhone app a few days ago that’s aimed at monitoring your driving performances and giving you a score based on various factors like braking, acceleration and cornering. The concept is really simple: the worse you drive (severe acceleration or braking, for example), the lower score you get at the end of the test. How does the app keep track of all this? Again, simple: it uses a mix of Google Maps, iPhone accelerometer and GPS data to see where you’re going, and how you’re driving. I took the app for a spin tonight to see whether or not it would really work with the awful road that connects San Martino al Cimino to my town, Viterbo.
The app starts up with a screen that asks you to create a new user profile, although everything stays locally and it’s not sent to State Farm’s servers. You can create as many profiles as you want for all members of your family who drive and would like to try Driver Feedback. Once a profile is ready, the app will also ask you to place the iPhone on a flat surface in your car but not on the dashboard, so you won’t be distracted and the iPhone’s accelerometer can work properly to register brakes and stops. Tonight I decided to drive a little faster than I usually do (75 km/h on average instead of the usual 60 km/h on the aforementioned terrible road) to see if Driver Feedback could really give me a bad score once I arrived at my destination. Once you’re ready to go, all you have to do in Driver Feedback is wait for a sound effect (a countdown related to the iPhone being placed on a flat surface, luckily I have one in my VW Polo) and start driving.
It usually takes me less than 10 minutes to drive from San Martino to Viterbo. As I decided to drive relatively worse tonight (of course, without putting anyone to risk) to evaluate the app’s functionalities, I didn’t consider that it was raining, badly. So it turned out to be a pretty awful 7-minute car trip that I honestly won’t repeat ever again. And the app did notice after I was done: I got a 50/100 score with multiple severe acceleration and braking points, and lots of suggestions to improve my driving in the future. Driver Feedback can even keep a log of all your trips and it allows you to check out data points on a Google Map, too. In the Alerts tab, the app explains what you did wrong and why you should improve your driving style, whilst the main screen offers an option to share scores via email or text. The UI is minimal, and elegant.
From what I’ve seen so far, Driver Feedback is a well-realized product that might really help you fine-tune the way you drive. I’d like to see more factors being considered in the future (such as traffic, or weather conditions), but as it stands now State Farm’s Driver Feedback is a cool app for drivers, and a useful product to remind everyone that good driving can save gas, and lives. Go download the app here.
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