With all the advances in automotive safety systems and vehicle dynamics, we still continue to pile up fatalities on the order of 45,000 each year on the highways of the United States. We have many more vehicles than we used to, drive many more miles in any weather condition and really have made serious strides in improved safety. But the number of fatalities seems almost institutio" />

Issue: May 2003


Fast Lane



Democratization of Telematics

by Rob Wilson

Rob WilsonWith all the advances in automotive safety systems and vehicle dynamics, we still continue to pile up fatalities on the order of 45,000 each year on the highways of the United States. We have many more vehicles than we used to, drive many more miles in any weather condition and really have made serious strides in improved safety. But the number of fatalities seems almost institutionalized.

Pilot error is what we need to work on and we've always known that but we refuse to address it. We never like to look at our customer as the root of the problem, but it could be the case.

Seatbelts, airbags, ABS braking systems and such have saved hundreds of thousands of lives, but I don't think anyone out there believes we've made enough progress. I think it's patently obvious that we have not. We are still slaughtering nearly 900 people each week and we need to try some new initiatives.

I doubt if any of us would embrace mandatory helmet laws, although they certainly work for race drivers and in certain states that have laws for motorcyclists. Most of us won't even let our kids ride bicycles or skateboards without a high-tech protective helmet.

My goodness, we just lost diet guru Robert Atkins to a bad fall and a bump on the head. No doubt a helmet would have prevented that also.

Hey, it is just too impractical to think about something as experience modifying as automobile drivers wearing mandatory helmets and therefore it is not going to happen.

I think more promise lies in the direction of using telematics for totally wiring the game and potentially producing some amazing results.

There are already so many interesting programs afoot using telematics to influence driver behavior.

We have IBM, the Insurance Services Office and the Safety Intelligence Systems Corp. in a strategic relationship to deliver auto crash information derived by telematics on a global basis. Another involves a study of 1,500 New York taxi cabs for the summer of 2003 addressing various types of insurance fraud involving medical, exaggerated pain and suffering claims.

In the U.K., the Norwich Union insurance company, IBM and Orange U.K. will conduct a program with 5,000 motorists to establish insurance premiums based on when, where and how often a vehicle is used. Basically, a Pay as You Drive insurance premium system is the goal.

There are so many other facets. But one thing that seems clear to me is that we are going to need a certain telematics capability for all vehicles, plain or exotic, to make the greatest use of this relatively new technology.

To make this work, we may have to put the minimum emphasis on the fixed content for all vehicles and put the stress on downloadable differentiating functionality or upgradable features over the life of the vehicle.

We need to find a way to democratize vehicle telematic capability so that we make a quantum leap in safety for the driving experience of all.

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