Jonathan Matus realized just how unpleasant commuting can be after leaving back-to-back positions at Google and Facebook. Once removed from the cushy confines of corporate shuttles, he was inspired to build a product that could make driving less stressful, and more rewarding.
ZenDrive aims to be that product. The app gathers data about your driving habits and gives you real-world rewards for making “good” decisions. The company peeked out of stealth mode today to announce a $1.5 million seed round from First Round Capital and influencers including Max Levchin, Jerry Yang, and Tim Ferriss.
“Driving sucks. It’s difficult to imagine any other activity so many people take every day that is stressful, polluting, dangerous, boring, expensive and yet- necessary,’ Matus said in a Q&A. It’s a big problem primarily centered around a lack of awareness. No-one has done a good job at measuring and pulling insights for road behavior.”
The quantified self movement is taking off and people are tracking everything from their sleeping patterns to their heart rate. Collecting and understanding this data can yield fresh insights about our behavior and guide us to make improvements. ZenDrive applies this principal to the road using smartphones, which have sensors for acceleration, speed, location, and direction. Matus said the app “puts things into context” using Big Data and machine learning. It also references external data, such as traffic patterns, to help you make decisions.
The first step is awareness of your habits, the second step is changing them. ZenDrive encourages drivers to make responsible driving choices by offering them rewards, like a discount at a local eatery, for avoiding high-traffic areas or driving the speed limit. The data can also be used as a testament to how safely you drive. Getting to an accident often leads to an increase in insurance rates. Matus said people could show their ZenDrive data to insurance companies to prove that they are good drivers and negotiate fairer rates.
Ultimately ZenDrive aims to help users make purchasing decisions. By understanding your driving patterns and history, and cross-referencing this against the choices and preferences of similar drivers, the app can make intelligent suggestions about which car is right for you. In the short term, the goal is to make driving a safer and more pleasurable experience.
Image Credit: Ivan Celestial