Jumping in the car with an Uber or Lyft driver is generally safer than getting behind the wheel yourself, according to a new study by Zendrive and Aite Group.
Zendrive, an automotive analytics firm, and Aite, a research firm, compared smartphone data from around 12,000 ride-hail drivers to data from millions of average drivers. The verdict? Part-time gig economy drivers for companies like Uber and Lyft speed less, drive more cautiously and are less likely to use their phones while driving.
“In terms of speeding, Aite Group finds that 30% of trips taken by ridesharing drivers involve speeding, compared to 41% for average drivers,” Aite explains in a press release. “Even when it comes to cell phone usage, which ridesharing drivers depend on for their work, they tend to be safer phone users while driving than average drivers. Ridesharing drivers are recorded fumbling with their phone for 23 seconds during a typical 15-minute trip, compared to 35 seconds for average drivers.”
Of course, semi-professional drivers didn’t win out in every category. Ride-hail drivers hit the brakes hard in 33 percent of trips versus 29 percent for your regular driver.
The study was done as a starting point for how the insurance industry can insure ride-hail drivers. It was far from all encompassing, though, since data was only collected from 12,000 ride-hail drivers. Uber alone boasts more than 300,000 drivers, according to Business Insider. But it’s a start.
Understanding the Data
As Harry Campbell writes in the Rideshare Guy Blog: “Once you become a rideshare driver, you quickly learn that driving is a skill. Navigating traffic, pedestrians and dealing with passengers only complicates things.”
It shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise that people who drive for a living are better drivers than people who don’t. For one, ride-share drivers log in a lot more miles than the average American. Also, everyday drivers make more dumb mistakes such as driving under the influence and not paying full attention to the road.
Austin chose against this fleet of skilled drivers, and Chicago may soon go the same way.
Perhaps the most surprising conclusion from the data is the finding that ride-hail drivers use their phones less. After all, a driver needs his or her smartphone to get jobs, know where to go and, eventually, get paid. The data collection itself relied on smartphones — all data was gathered “using just the sensors in a smartphone,” the study says.
One explanation is that drivers know their roads. Hours of driving the same streets builds a familiarity with the best ways to get to and from different locations. More familiarity means less fumbling with the GPS. Additionally, when ride-hail drivers are driving, they are working. They generally aren’t checking emails or scrolling through Facebook because driving is their job.
Why the Data Matters
While knowing that drivers are good at what they do is comforting for riders, the data is also important for the insurers it was gathered for.
“Insurers with a negative bias toward ridesharing may actually reconsider and favor policyholders that engage in ridesharing to the extent that participating in such activity may contribute to making them better drivers,” Gwenn Bezard, Aite Group partner and insurance research director, says in a press release. “For instance, insurers could incent young drivers to engage in ridesharing as a way to accelerate their growing up into savvy drivers.”
It takes trust to get in a car with someone you don’t know, and it’s important for insurers, riders and city governments to trust ride-hail drivers. If there’s no trust, then there’s no business. If there’s no business, then transportation options become more limited and part-time driving jobs are lost. The entire business model hinges on trusting the people behind the wheel.
This study is a good place to start.