Boston Debuts App and Competition to Promote Safer Driving Habits

In the hopes of promoting safer driving, Boston city agencies have partnered with local driving analytics company Cambridge Mobile Telematics to launch the “Boston’s Safest Driver” mobile application and competition on Monday.

The app collects various metrics on users' driving. Local users of the app who participate in the competition will receive points based on how safe they are behind the wheel, with top scoring drivers receiving monetary awards.

The Boston Transportation Department, the Mayor’s Office of New Urban Mechanics, and safe driving initiative Vision Zero Task Force are all partnering with Cambridge Mobile Telematics on the app.

“We think the real value here is self-reflection on what you’re doing on the roadway,” co-Chair of the Boston Mayor’s Office of New Urban Mechanics, Kristopher Carter, said.

Until the competition's end on Dec. 3, the Arbella Insurance Foundation will fund more than $9,000 in prizes to the app’s “top drivers,” including a $2,000 grand prize.

The competition aims to meet Vision Zero Task Force’s goal of eventually eliminating serious traffic hazards using educational, engineering, and enforcement solutions. The Boston’s Safest Driver app works toward this goal by providing an educational tool to help people recognize and improve their own driving habits.

The app collects metrics on drivers’ speed, acceleration, braking, turning, and phone use while driving. According to Cambridge Mobile Telematics founder and chief scientist Samuel Madden, the app uses a phone’s position and acceleration sensors to collect some metrics.

The app also collects aggregate data on its users’ driving. According to Madden and Carter, however, it is difficult to tell how the city of Boston would use this aggregate data to further combat traffic hazards.

“We need at least a few weeks, if not a month’s [worth of] data to tell us, ‘You know, okay, what should we do next? Where is this working, where isn’t [it]?’” Carter said. “What other problems should we be tackling? How should we use this to inform our strategy going forward on making our streets safer?"

While anyone can use the app to evaluate his or her driving habits, Carter said that users can only participate in the competition if they are from Boston or the 100 surrounding towns and cities.



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