Smartphone Telematics and the Urban Traveler

Today, we bring you a guest post from Katey Walker at Pinnacle Actuarial Resources. As many of you might already know, Driveway and Pinnacle have teamed up to offer the industry a coordinated usage based insurance solution that includes driver behavior scoring.

Star Driving Road Master or Crazy Speeding Hooligan?

Usage based insurance has been a hot topic in the insurance industry for a number of years now. Insurance companies are actively exploring UBI options, vendors are presenting new telematics and data solutions, and consumer acceptance is rising.

Yet, how can UBI be relevant for someone living in the city? Day-to-day driving is often replaced with buses, trains, bikes, and walking. A night out often involves a taxi or a ride sharing service. Isn’t UBI simply a validation that urban dwellers don’t drive as much as others?

As part of Pinnacle’s new venture with Driveway Software, I downloaded the app last fall - with the knowledge that I don’t drive very many miles and am, nevertheless, a good driver. The app monitors your movements while in transit and gathers information about the trip. Driveway Software also allows users to indicate the type of conveyance for each trip (i.e., bus, airplane, tram, taxi, etc.) The app runs in the background on my smartphone and as promised did not drain the battery. In the past six months, some interesting data has emerged.

I do not drive my personal auto very much; my 2012 Toyota Highlander has only 11,000 miles. But I was curious about the data itself and was anxious to see what thought-provoking ideas would come of it.

The first idea came when I started to look at the summary data. I had a low overall insurance score based on Annual Mileage. This gave me definite pause while I considered that the projected 13,000 miles a year included all of the “driving” that I was doing as a passenger in automobiles, taxis, and trains.

So what did the smartphone telematics app show for this urban traveler?


In my case, I drive 31% of the time with an average trip of length of 11.6 miles. Driving rental cars on business trips constitutes another 11% of my miles, but involves significantly longer trips. The remaining 58% of traveling is done as a passenger in some form.

Driver identification becomes a major issue in the use of a smartphone based application. I had logged 2,000 miles on my personal vehicle and another 700 in rental cars over 6 months, and without coding the trips within the app, my annual mileage was over-projected. Thankfully, the sophistication of driving apps has moved beyond manual user trip classification to being able to identify different modes of transportation through advanced data and spatial analytics.

My second observation was the overall safety of different transportation methods. The Driveway app focuses on common telematics measurements – acceleration, braking, cornering, and speeding – and combines with trip distance to create a score (higher scores indicate safer modes of transportation). Based on this data from my trial in and around Chicago, the safest ways to get around are:


  1. CTA Train (blue line primarily)
  2. “Other” including CTA buses and taxiing on the plane at the airport
  3. UberX drivers
  4. Passenger in my friends’ vehicles
  5. Me
  6. Taxi companies
  7. Me in a rental car

Now despite the occasional warnings from the app about being a “Crazy Speeding Hooligan” or a “Brake Stomping Road Expert,” I would also earn the rank of “Star Driving Road Master” or a “Top Notch Race Car Pro” on the app. Plus, I’m a really good driver….or am I?

Interestingly, the average score hasn’t changed a lot over time. The taxi score tends to fluctuate a bit more, especially after a trip to New York City, but the driver scores are fairly steady for each of the categories indicating an ability to consistently detect and score driving behavior patterns.

So, 6 months later, I’m a believer in the smartphone app as a UBI solution even for the urban traveler. Watch for additional information and analysis about my UBI trial in future blogs.

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