A new study of public data collected from drivers of Uber, Lyft, and several other ride-hailing and valet-parking technology companies finds that drivers are--wait for it--actually safer behind the wheel than, well, the general population.
Yes, it appears that drivers being tasked with taking random passengers, vehicles, or deliveries to new locations--quickly, and often while relying on a cell phone to assist them--use cell phones less than average drivers. And they speed less frequently, too.
According to the study, 30 percent of trips taken by ride-sharing drivers involve speeding, compared with 41 percent for average drivers. And: "Even when it comes to cell phone usage, which ride-sharing drivers depend on for their work, they tend to be safer phone users while driving than average drivers." This interesting data point was measured by fumbling. "Ride-sharing drivers are recorded fumbling with their phone for 23 seconds during a typical 15-minute trip," the study reveals, "compared to 35 seconds for average drivers."
The study did not measure alertness behind the wheel (some have criticized Uber for some of its drivers' drowsy driving).
But back to the good news: I guess they're not exactly texting and driving. Where does this data come from anyway? It comes from a fascinating company called Zendrive, which makes a technology integrated into cell-phone apps to track driver behavior. Zendriver's goal is to make roads safer through analytics.
Or, rather, it comes from those who use Zendrive's technology, which includes dominant industry players such as Lyft and Uber and HopSkipDrive, at least in certain cities where Zendrive integration is available. Other companies that have integrated some of Zendrive's technology include biometric tracker Human.co (which lets users opt into ride-tracking when their phone is plugged into a car's power), Sherpashare (used by drivers), Life360 (a family tracker), RedCap (a driver-on-demand service), Dashride (a dispatching system), and Valet Anywhere and Luxe, two valet-parking apps.
Zendrive research partner Aite (pronounced eye-tay) Group compiled the data and completed the research. The analysis was performed on 1 million trips made by approximately 12,000 drivers over 15 million miles driven last summer. Data was sampled from across the U.S.--mostly in large metropolitan areas. Here's the full study release.
One incentive for ride-hailing companies to use a technology such as Zendrive is to monitor drivers' behavior--and ostensibly curb bad ones. But there's also a potential upside for companies in terms of insurance. If ride-hailing or valet-parking companies can prove they have safe track records, one can imagine they'll get significantly better rates.
Regardless, there's one thing you shouldn't read into this study: That all ride-sharing or hailed-car drivers are going to be safe drivers. On average, they might not be. The data, remember, is taken from drivers who are aware (or, at least most of them are aware) they or their company has installed tracking-software--so they know that the device on their dash can alert their boss if they've blown through a red light or texted a friend. And, with Big Brother watching, who wouldn't be less likely to speed, text, or engage in other dangerous--or punishable--behavior?