Automotive App of the Week: Driver Feedback
Finally, there's an app to end the ongoing argument over who gets the best — or worst — driver designation in your household or among your friends. But since it's from auto insurer State Farm, the app doesn't measure quarter-mile times or the best line around a track, but instead calculates who the best/worst driver is in terms of safety.
State Farm's free Driver Feedback iPhone app keeps tabs on three telltale bad-driving behaviors — hard braking, lead-footing the accelerator and aggressive cornering — using the iPhone's accelerometer and GPS receiver (it's not available for an iPod Touch). It then computes a score for each category and a total for each recorded trip, and also keeps score for multiple drivers.
Plus, it allows comparing two trips — and drivers — against one another. And that's where the otherwise nanny-ish app can become fun.
To score a drive, launch the app and hit the Record Trip icon in the tool bar at the bottom of the screen. After a quick calibration the app starts recording. When you've reached your destination, tap the Stop Trip icon and the app then allows naming the trip and adding notes.
The My Trips icon in the tool bar can be tapped to view your recorded travels, while Compare Trips lets you see how separate trips or separate drivers stack up against each other. And if you want to tell your friends how good (or bad) a driver you are, you can email or text-message the results to them.
As far as we can tell, there's no way for State Farm to track the driving of the app's users. Although with all the recent news about Apple and Google spying on users of their devices, you can never be completely sure. And judging from the video below, the app is designed to allow parents to track their teens' driving behavior.
Of course, there's always the potential that the app could backfire and its purpose turned inside out so that kids and the ... um, young at heart can find out how low they can go rather than use it to improve their safe-driving skills. Of course, no teens or anyone we know would ever do that.
Gretchen McFarlan, Contributor