Vodafone’s telematics are helping car insurer Admiral to evaluate each driver’s risk factor. Great idea, but could telematics go further to protect us? The new Admiral LittleBox is the vehicle to take us to a new age of Usage Based Insurance (UBI), they say.

The promised destination is a ‘great customer experience’ – but it remains to be seen if we will complete that journey. In the meantime, insurance underwriters will get a short cut to risk avoidance, by gaining much better insights into each person who gets behind the wheel, says Nick Booth.

Obviously, we’re not party to ALL the data they collect, but a major component seems to be post-crash analysis. Isn’t this a case of shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted? Surely some pre-emptive medicine would be a far better cure.

I’m with Andrew Bennett, the CEO of Insure Telematics Solutions (ITS), on this point. He says that we often fail to go the distance paved by each generation of technology before we dig up the proverbial roads again. We shall hear more from him in future columns.

What about driver effects?

Meantime, the Littlebox has only just been unveiled, but there is one possibility I don’t want them to overlook: forget the pain of insurance brokers, what about the terrible effects that drivers have on other people?

Seemingly innocuous ones can still induce others to crash. They don’t indicate when they turn, and they cut corners when should be doing a 90 degree turn. The lack of consideration is infuriating and can be a provocation to bad driving by others. Wouldn’t it be great if the Littlebox’s telematics created a way to reward people who don’t dawdle at the lights or speed up just so that other people can’t pull out. The box should name and shame the passive aggressives, who alternate between needlessly revving up and slamming on the brakes.

By policing this, the box could help drivers save money on petrol and stop causing stress to their passengers and other drivers.

Hostage passengers

The fact that passengers are hostage to driver behaviour has long been known to car makers, because constant unexpected movements, over which passengers have no control, induce motion sickness. This malady, is caused by the difference between the visionary and the vestibular which confuses the brain and induces light headedness and nausea. It’s far worse for passengers because they get to feel every swerve and lunge and they can never entirely see what’s going on.

In the connected car, we’ll all be passengers. So, the sick rate just went up by 20%. Worse still, we could all be seeing the world through tiny windows and glowing screens, while subjected to the unfathomable logic of a robot driver. Never has the gulf between what we see and what we feel been such a wide vomitorium.

Tomorrow’s connected car could end up smelling worse than a Saturday night mini cab! This is a danger that car makers are taking very seriously.

Nick Booth

Jaguar Land Rover, for example, has sponsored its technical leader of engineering, Spencer Salter, in a PhD study of the phenomenon that makes car passengers ill.

Every passive traveller suffers from this, says Salter, but his studies show the human body can be conditioned by training to be more resistant.

The RAF and NASA put potential pilots on habituation programmes, where they are subjected to increasingly distressing virtual rides, in order to cure them. Well, it that’s what it takes, think I’d rather walk, thank you.

There is a danger that humans will get sicker if we don’t design the cars right, says Salter. The person who drives the car is the one who makes people sick and in the age of the connected car, the driver is not the robot but the designer who created it.

Ah, I’m feeling a bit psychosomatic about this. Do you mind if I wait five minutes before I get on board?

The author of this blog is Nick Booth, freelance IT and communications writer

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