BetterDriver might be just the device you want if you are the parent of a young driver struggling to soothe those jangled nerves.
The GPS/Internet-based gadget – the size of a mobile phone — fits on the dashboard of young drivers and tracks how well he or she performs on the road, giving parents the opportunity to review the safety of their children. It even issues real-time alerts to drivers – as and when they brake too hard, accelerate too quickly or dangerously change lanes – potentially changing their behaviour for the better behind the wheel.
“We have designed BetterDriver specifically in response to the crash rates for P-plate drivers who are most at risk in the first years of driving,” said Michael Graham, the chief executive of Mercurien Limited, the Sydney-based software company that developed BetterDriver. “The number of accidents per month increases dramatically when drivers cross the threshold from L to P plates. The statistics are compelling and we felt we had the chance to make a positive difference.”
A friendly driving coach
BetterDriver software was developed by Mercurien around the Skymeter data recording unit, built by a Canadian company by the same name. The system consists of the Skymeter unit, powered by the car’s electrical system, a GPS transmitter and an accelerometer, which monitors the vehicle’s movement in terms of normal or excessive driving behaviour. It picks up signals of bad or dangerous driving, and immediately emits clear but non-disruptive audio signals to the driver. The audio alerts are graded to represent the severity of the at-risk actions.
According to Graham, the BetterDriver service provides access to a password-protected, individual website that allows drivers and their families to review each trip for safety.
“The BetterDriver individual websites show the route the vehicle has taken, time, distance and the manner in which the vehicle has been driven. As well as illustrating any at-risk actions over time, the system also reports an eco score that helps young people to drive in a manner that minimises green house gas emissions,” said Graham.
The system also reports an eco score that identifies if the vehicle has been driven in a manner that minimises green house gas emissions, he added.
The cost of the BetterDriver service ranges from an activation fee of $100 plus $2 a week – “less than (what) most people spend on coffee a week,” Graham said. To push the service, Mercurien also announced 20% insurance discounts for the first 1,000 sign-ups, offered in collaboration the AAMI. Later entrants will still get a 10% insurance discount.
It should be interesting to watch if BetterDriver system reduces accidents among young drivers. Currently, P-plate drivers in Australia are estimated to be 33 times more likely to have a crash than L‐plate drivers, according to Mercurien.