Beyond Telematics to Biometrics: Emotion Monitoring for Drivers

insurance-telematicsGrip tightens. Body temperature rises, heart rate accelerates. Respiration pattern: agitated. Your arm slices the air, a shout! And then – before your wrath can fully unleash – it happens. Gentle music fills the air. You hear a waterfall. There are birds chirping. You are not Bruce Banner. You’re not a caged bull. You’re an agitated driver, and State Farm has plans to calm you down.

Are drivers emotionally-impaired?

It’s no news that impaired driving leads to collisions. Usually when people say “impaired,” they mean drunk. But there are many ways to be impaired: texting behind the wheel, getting distracted by an infotainment system and driving sleepy are three well-documented examples of just how dangerous impaired driving can be.

Driving angry? That’s another. Safe Motorist said that 66 percent of traffic fatalities are caused by aggressive driving, and according to Washington Post, road rage is only getting worse.

Could emotion-monitoring be the next big thing?

For insurers, agitated drivers bring yet another opportunity to innovate, and this time, State Farm is eager to be the pioneer. Whereas Progressive led the charge to insurance telematics, State Farm now has a patent pending on its emotion-monitoring system.

“Are you sweating, yelling or waving your arms while you drive?” said Amy Danise at Nerd Wallet. “State Farm’s ’emotion management system’ would use a variety of sensors and cameras to monitor your biometrics,” and if it thought you were angry, to “select and deliver stimuli to change your behavior.”

If State Farm can convince insurance regulators that the data they can collect on driver emotion really does correlate to risk, they may be onto something. Like usage based insurance, emotion detection could offer drivers a way to get lower rates by better-managing their emotions behind the wheel. Insurers who use the technology could offer discounts to early-adopters. They could structure their offerings to reward those who improved their overall risk profile by participating with the program.

Ultimately, it could make the roads safer by working against the road rage trend.

There are some hurdles to jump first.

  • Can it be done? Psychologist Robert Nemerovski was skeptical that the system could control for quirks: behavioral differences among individual drivers.
  • Would it backfire? Telling an angry person to calm down can have the opposite effect. If you’re ticked off and your car tries to pacify you, would that irritate you even more?
  • Is it intrusive? Drivers who are already concerned about privacy in IT would probably find it repugnant to adopt a technology that’s designed to track their emotions.
  • Is it cost-prohibitive? Questions remain, including how much would it cost per vehicle, and who would pay. The technology is too young at this point to say for certain.

With any brand-new innovation, it’s difficult to know whether we’re looking at a change soon to sweep the industry – or just a nice idea, bound to fizzle after a little experimentation.

That said, the use of biometrics has already begun to beat a path for many new innovations in the health industry, from wearable devices like FitBit to medical devices for use by doctors. Could emotion-monitoring put a health-related twist on auto insurance, tracking biometrics to make the roads safer? If it did, would you be among the first to try it?

At Driveway, we recommend that you master “movement monitoring” (AKA: insurance telematics) before you attempt “emotion monitoring” (AKA: biometrics). As the old adage goes … walk before you run! Want to know how to insurance telematics can help you grow in a stagnant market? This report will tell you.

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