Ford tests fitness tracker for driving performance

As part of its Driver Behavior Project, Ford has been monitoring driving performance and driver stress levels

As part of its move towards mobility, Ford has run an experiment in which it monitored how well people were driving and provided them with a score. This could then be used to provide insights via an app into how their driving could be improved, as well as possibly leading to good drivers saving money.

The four month-long, London-based Driver Behaviour Project used plug-in devices to monitor driving performances in more than 40 Ford Fiestas. Over 160,000-km (99,400-mi) and over 4,000 hours of data were collected, with the plug-in devices tracking factors like steering wheel movements and braking, as well as contextual factors like time of day, weather and road history.

An accompanying mobile app allowed drivers to view their score and to see how different driving behaviors affected it. Drivers were rewarded for actions like steady acceleration, steering smoothly and driving in the most appropriate gear. A score was calculated for each journey, which in turn was used to update the driver's overall score.

Project lead for Ford's Smart Mobility program Jonathan Scott explains that the approach could be used in a similar way to how fitness trackers provide insights into how sporting performance can be improved and to inform health insurance premiums. Good driving scores, though, might be used to provide discounts on car insurance or services like car-hire and car‑sharing.

"From the vehicle data and research gathered, we were able to test an internally developed, highly advanced driving score algorithm," explains Scott. "The score could be used to develop a mobility profile, enabling drivers to save money on services tailored to their needs."

In addition to monitoring driver performance, the Driver Behaviour Project has also been researching driver stress and how driving affects the physical and emotional states of drivers. The work, which is ongoing at the UK's University of Nottingham, subjects volunteers to a series of driving situations in both a simulator and a real car, with their heart rates, eye movements and brain patterns monitored. Ford says that this too will provide insights into how people can become better drivers.

Ford is demonstrating the Driver Behaviour Project at London Technology Week from June 20 to 26.

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