Changing drivers’ behaviour

Even when travellers decide to make their journey by car there are some ways in which ICT can help to make the trip more sustainable. Sometimes this is about acting directly on the vehicle rather than trying to influence the behaviour of the driver; I’ll deal with this approach elsewhere.

In terms of acting on driver behaviour, there are a number of options. Firstly, there is trying to improve driving style – sometimes called ‘eco-driving’. Mostly this is just common sense: drive slower, try not to accelerate or brake too much, and so on. ICT can help by providing the drivers with information and feedback about what they are doing. For example:

The EcoDrive product implemented in some Fiat models, and based on the ‘Blue and Me’ in-car electronics system, is an example. Here, the driver plugs a USB drive into a slot in the car, then subsequently transfers the data to a PC where an application can analyse it, present graphical information and give tips.

Royal Sun Alliance offers a product called ‘Greenwheels’ as a complement to its conventional insurance, with the data being gathered and transmitted via an in-car telematics box and analysed and presented by a web application.

Nissan’s ‘CarWings eco drive’ (offered only in Japan) is again similar, and again is web-based, with the addition of something like a social networking dimension, so that drivers can compare their own driving style and fuel consumption with those of others – a nice idea, though I can’t help wondering whether some would-be Clarksons will aim to have the worst profile rather than the best.

Another tool aimed at persuading drivers to do better is Pay As You Drive (PAYD) insurance. This isn’t specifically aimed at making drivers reduce their emissions, but it does shift them towards a more usage-based cost model – one of the reasons why it’s so easy to decide to use the car for journeys is that most of the cost of car usage is up-front payment rather than usage based, and if you don’t use the car you are ‘wasting’ this. There are quite a few different PAYD systems around.

In the UK Norwich Union introduced a telematics-based PAYD system, signed up a few customers (I was one of them) and then withdrew the product – probably because it wasn’t working all that well, either technically or commercially. However, the company (under its new Aviva brand) is preparing to introduce PAYD in France.

In the UK new entrant Coverbox is offering a similar telematics-based product with several different insurance companies, though it appears to be designed not to attract low-mileage drivers.

There are live products in other countries – summarised in the Wikipedia article at . Note that not all are GPS-based – Progressive Insurance’s MyRate in the US (some states only) uses telematics info but not GPS to capture driver behaviour. GMAC (General Motors insurance subsidiary) has a similar product based on odometer readings and GM’s OnStar platform – though this appears to be a fairly blunt segmentation tool rather than a real behaviour-based tariff — there are discounts for users who drive less than 15,000 miles per year.

Other ICT products that have the potential to push drivers towards more sustainable driving styles (even though this isn’t the main intention) include the whole apparatus of speed reduction, including all the speed measurement systems like cameras but also the notification systems that warn drivers about the cameras. Driving more slowly reduces fuel consumption – perhaps an argument for reducing the maximum speed limit, which would deliver clear sustainability and safety benefits without needing any new technology!

Also worth a mention are route planning/satnav tools such as TomTom and traffic information systems like TrafficMaster. Both of these are aimed at making it nicer for drivers, and neither has any explicit sustainability or emissions reduction objective, though TomTom has made some claims about saving fuel; but it’s probably fair to say that if drivers complete their journey without getting stuck in traffic then they ought to be driving for less time and use less fuel. Of course, this might tempt them to make journeys that otherwise might not get made…

Finally, There are other ‘intelligent car/intelligent road’ systems, like advance hazard warning systems, which use ICT and are aimed at modifying driver behaviour but are driven by safety rather than sustainability. Even these ought to scrape onto our list, because accidents lead to congestion and thereby leads to increased fuel consumption and emissions (though again, reduced accidents and congestion might lead to more journeys being made).

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