Aviva’s head of innovation, Paul Heybourne, shares his thoughts on the free app that’s making drivers feel safer, fighting crash-for-cash scams and disrupting the dash cam market.
Motor tech is speeding ahead
Connected cars, driverless vehicles, cars that collect and share our data – these are just some of the emerging trends I look at as part of my job leading Aviva’s innovation team.
Some of this technology is still a couple of years away from being part of everyone’s daily lives, but one trend we couldn’t ignore was the array of devices drivers were buying to make their cars more connected.
From retrofitting heads-up displays and wi-fi hotspots, to apps that monitor driving and smartphone sat-navs – there seemed to be a gadget for (almost) everything.
The desire for dash cams
We noticed that dash cams in particular were growing in popularity – the AA had published a report in 2017 saying usage had grown from 1% to 15% in 4 years, and I’d read that Halfords were fitting more dash cams than stereos or sat navs.
I wanted to know what was driving that trend.
We surveyed more than 2,000 UK motorists who drove at least once a week and discovered that 17% of them were using dash cams.
Some drivers had been in an accident previously, where, in the absence of concrete evidence, it had been difficult to prove what had happened. People ended up sending complicated, confusing drawings to try to explain what had happened.
Other people had read about ‘crash for cash’ – a scam where a driver crashes into another deliberately so they can make a fraudulent insurance claim – and wanted to protect themselves. Some people simply wanted to feel safer on the road.
These reasons resonated with me and my team at Aviva. Everything we develop is, ultimately, to help our customers feel safer and more protected.
Developing our dash cam
Six years ago, we had created a smartphone app, Aviva Drive, which monitors driving and rewards safer motorists with a discount on their insurance.
The Drive app worked in the same way as a telematics device, more commonly known as a black box. Previously, these boxes had to be wired in to your car by an insurer. This was intrusive and time consuming.
Our Drive app, which only had to be opened on a smartphone to work, had disrupted the telematics offerings on the market and I wondered, could we do the same with a dash cam?
So, we looked at the current dash cams on the market.
Some of them were quite difficult to use and complicated to set up; many needed wiring in.
Most dash cams recorded the entire journey when, really, you only need the short section of footage showing an accident to send to your insurer or the police.
The whole process of editing and sending large video files could be cumbersome too. I thought we could make something simpler and easier.
Test driving the tech
My team at Aviva’s Digital Garage in London hosted a one-week hack where our developers created a prototype dash cam app and invited 100 Aviva employees to test it.
The response was overwhelmingly positive.
Within a few weeks, we were confident that our app on people’s smartphones could match a traditional dash cam.
One challenge to overcome was the problem of recording the whole journey. We knew that this wasn’t necessary and used too much memory on people’s phones.
Our solution was to record in short loops and use automatic collision detection to only keep footage showing the 30 seconds before and 30 seconds after a crash.
With this feature now included, we tested the app with vehicle safety tech experts Thatcham Research in a variety of staged accidents.
We then invited 1,000 customers to test the app over a five-month period. Users recorded more than 7,000 journeys, with one-in-six still using it at the end of the trial.
People loved the convenience of using their phone, and felt safer and more protected in the event of a crash. One person used footage to settle a real-life claim and several customers sent us footage of ‘near misses’ they had manually captured – grateful they had the app running in case the worst had happened.
The road ahead
We have now launched the dash cam feature as part of our existing Aviva Drive app.
It can be used by everyone, not just Aviva customers, although people who insure with us have the option to be put straight through to our claims team and send footage directly from the app, if they’ve been in an accident.
Users are in full control of their data. We don’t see any footage unless the driver chooses to send it to us.
The app still rewards safer driving, so if you’re not currently insured with us you could benefit from a discount if you insure with us next time.
Our latest survey showed that the number of UK motorists using one has risen from 17% in April 2017 to 27% in 2018.
The app will give even more drivers the chance to try a free dash cam on their phone, and we are excited to see if there’s an effect on speed with which we can resolve claims.
There’s always room for improvement – digital innovation is important to Aviva – so we’ll be keeping an eye on the app and seeing what else would be helpful to customers. Give it a try by searching for ‘Aviva Drive’ in your app store.