Distracted driving is an old issue responsible for a significant share of all accidents. It ranges from parents looking in the back seat to discipline misbehaving children to anything that takes the driver’s focus off the road. Inattention can make even routine driving a dangerous task. The advent of cell phones further encourages distraction, which goes beyond texting and driving. While texting and checking email are what most people think of as cell phone related distracted driving, almost half of drivers also admit to checking social media, or even video chatting, while driving. In fact, according to NHTSA CrashStats over 10% of all motor vehicle deaths and 15% of motor vehicle injuries occur because of distracted driving, and these numbers appear to be on the rise.
Current Solutions to Distracted Driving Epidemic:
While there are some solutions in place to reduce distracted driving, most have been largely ineffective in changing driving behavior. The solutions fall into three broad categories:
- Societal: These solutions seek to use educational programs and social pressure to educate individuals and communities on the dangers of distracted driving. The efforts have been successful in that now most people recognize that distracted driving is “bad” or “wrong.” However, there is little evidence that these awareness efforts have changed behaviors or reduced the incidence of distracted driving.
- Legislative: As of June 2017, texting and driving is banned in 46 states and the District of Columbia. Despite the legal prohibitions, many people continue to use handheld devices while driving. Few of the legal restrictions include primary enforcement, and this gap reduces their effectiveness.
- Technological: The manufacturers of mobile devices and many wireless carriers are working on a range of apps and telematics that can gather information about distracted driving. However, many of these can be overridden by manual adjustments. For example, AT&T’s DriveMode app has the capability to disable mobile device usage automatically when moving faster than 15 mph.
- Telematics Devices: Several insurance carriers now use telematics devices to track driver behaviors and adjust insurance premiums. Drivers can receive discounts with no risk of premium increase with auto insurers such as Progressive and Allstate, whose programs use devices that capture risky driving behaviors such as hard braking, hard turning, and quick acceleration.
Future Solutions to Distracted Driving:
The emergence of autonomous vehicles has the potential to reduce distracted driving by taking the driver out of the equation. This will let drivers work or relax during daily commutes or longer road trips. Further, because drivers will no longer need to keep their eyes on the road while in a vehicle, future car interiors will change and may even resemble living rooms.
However, while autonomous vehicles may remove the human error component from the driving experience, many issues remain unresolved. Moreover, there is the risk that autonomous vehicles will simply replace human error with machine error. In addition, there are uncertainties that have strategic implications on companies with products and services that touch the auto industry. The dynamic changes in the industry require developing strategic options.
Industry Challenges/How to Prepare for the Future of Autonomous Vehicles:
Companies with products and services that are even peripherally related to the auto industry are investing time and resources towards autonomous vehicle initiatives. For these companies, strategic planning can help focus the efforts on areas where they have a strategic advantage or can play a key role in the market. Once in the marketplace, autonomous vehicles will change car manufacturer operations, auto insurance strategies, and individual car ownership as we know it. Scenario planning is one tool that can help present alternatives and improve strategic planning outcomes.
Some ideas to consider when developing scenarios:
With autonomous vehicle technologies, the potential business and social upside is tremendous – reduced accidents and congestion, efficient deliveries, car sharing, and fewer old, broken-down cars on the road. These changes may also increase productivity, efficiency, and eliminate our present-day dangers of distracted driving.
However, this change will also disrupt many industries. Any company that sells products or services related to motor vehicles will be affected, including insurers, large corporations, and car manufacturers. To stay ahead of the coming changes, companies must constantly monitor the space and adjust their strategies to the changes to maintain a competitive advantage. Robust scenario planning can also assess and develop stronger strategies to respond to a variety of future possibilities.
-Naomi Warren, Senior Analyst, Finance & Insurance Practice, Fletcher/CSI