Data / 3 min read
Nov 24, 2014

Zendrive Whitepaper: Smartphones Can Replace On Board Diagnostics to Measure Unsafe Driving Behaviors

A smartphone is a more powerful driving tool than previously thought. Beyond guiding a driver’s route or providing traffic updates, smartphones can now have a powerful effect on improving driver safety and measuring risk while on the road.

“Zendrive has invented a new way of collecting this road safety data by using phone sensors instead of onboard diagnostics and other embedded systems,” says Ohad Samet, CEO of TrueAccord and an expert in risk assessment via behavioral analytics. “On top of this data collection, their technology measures and describes this behavior in useful ways which lend themselves to easy risk analysis.”  

Traditionally, the automotive industry has used on board diagnostics (OBD), which uses sensors embedded in automobiles, to analyze the behavior of the car. While these types of traditional hardware solutions can measure speed, accelerator throttle, and various engine conditions, our research has shown that smartphones are capable of many of the same measurements. Today we released a new whitepaper showing that smartphones can measure driver speeding with relative accuracy – 98 percent with the GPS turned on and 94 percent with the GPS turned off (to conserve energy). This means that a smartphone, which most drivers already have in their pocket, could replace this OBD functionality with no need for additional hardware.

“Measuring speeding is only the first step in assessing driver risk.” Says Pankaj Risbood, VP of Data and co-founder of Zendrive. “Phone sensor inputs can be granular enough to calculate other aggressive driving behaviors like fast acceleration and hard braking. And given the rich understanding of a phone’s movements and internet connectivity, it is possible to apply additional contextual information to the risk analysis.”

A driver’s distraction through texts and phone calls, the weather, the time of day, and how long the driver has been on the road are all relevant inputs to a driver’s overall risk on the road. This leads to Driver-Centric Analytics: unlike OBD, smartphones can also measure the behavior of the driver, not just the behavior of the car, resulting in much richer insights.  As machine learning adds a new layer of sophistication to the analysis possible, smartphones become an even more powerful tool for monitoring risky driving behavior and improve road safety.

“As transportation evolves to include more fluid options for cars and drivers, including ridesharing and car sharing, insurance must evolve with it,” says Tim Nee, of Teach Insurance Resources. “The future of motor vehicle insurance will include improved risk measurement for an individual driver’s behaviors, such as speeding, risky operator habits, and total amount of driving. Better risk management means lower insurance prices, and new technology will be a key enabler toward achieving that goal.”

Read the whitepaper on smartphones replacing On Board Diagnostics in measuring dangerous driving behaviors here.


Zendrive’s mission is to make the world’s roads safer through data and analytics. By leveraging mobile sensor data, we deliver actionable insights that improve safety for passengers and drivers worldwide, and provide insurers and fleets with direct line-of-sight into driving behavior and risk, with the ability to meaningfully reduce that risk along with operational costs. Launched in 2013 and based in San Francisco, Zendrive has analyzed billions of driving miles and trillions of data points.