Allston company’s app promises to show you whether your driving is as good as you think

Allston-based Censio has partnered with Progressive Insurance to save drivers money and make roads safer.
Allston-based Censio has partnered with Progressive Insurance to save drivers money and make roads safer. –Photo: The Boston Globe / Image: Censio

Think of this app as the backseat driver that you might consider listening to. Not only does it promise to make you a better driver, but it could also save you money in insurance costs.

The app is the product of Censio, a data-analytics company based in Allston. The company says it aims to reduce thousands of traffic-related fatalities and millions of traffic accidents caused by distracted driving.

Censio president Kevin Farrell referred to the app as the “Fitbit of driving.’’ “Our purpose and the mission of our company is to help drivers and people around the world become better, safer drivers,’’ said Farrell in a phone interview.


How it works

While other systems require a piece of hardware to connect to a car’s diagnostic port to get a reading on a car’s patterns while in use, the Censio app tracks driving habits by reading a smartphone’s sensors that measure positioning, velocity, and more.

Because it’s phone-based, Censio can go a step further than other connected car devices like Automatic and Zubie. While these devices only offer driving tips based on the movements of a car, Censio measures distracted driving behaviors by recording if a driver uses their smartphone during a driving session to make a phone call or check a text message.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, nine people are killed and over 1,100 are injured every day in crashes that involve a distracted driver. On its website,, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration claims 3,154 people died in motor vehicle crashes involving distracted drivers in 2013. Addressing those numbers is a key part of Censio’s mission, says Farrell.

“Our purpose and mission of our company is to help drivers and people around world become better, safer drivers,’’ he said. “We use data to make driving safer and more affordable.’’

Evaluating the driver


After the data is collected, the driver is issued a score from 1 to 100. Users can see how often they experienced hard braking, drove during “high risk’’ times of the day, and how frequently they used their phones. Their scores and driving habits are also measured against the national average.

Farrell believes revealing this data to motorists can positively influence their driving decisions.

“The biggest thing in…changing behavior is showing what ‘good’ is, and ‘not so good’ is,’’ said Farrell. “At the end of the day, what we’re trying to do is have a big impact on driver safety and the app – the Fitbit of driving – is all about doing just that.’’

Farrell, who joined the company in January, said he commutes from southern New Hampshire to Boston. He said using Censio on his commute has enlightened him to his own poor driving habits.

“I thought I was a good driver, most people do,’’ he said. But data from Censio offered a different picture. “I had an excessive use of brakes and distracted behavior,’’ he said. “My score reflected that from a safety perspective I could use some improvement.’’

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How it can save you money

Since September, the company has partnered with Progressive Insurance to offer drivers savings based on their personal driving habits. The insurance company currently has exclusive access to the app while testing is underway.

Progressive is also using Censio’s app to develop the software for Snapshot, the company’s usage-based insurance system that offers discounts to drivers based on their personal driving habits. On its website, the insurance provider acknowledges that data that reveals a pattern of “riskier driving habits’’ can indicate the greater likelihood of an accident and may result in higher rates.


Progressive’s Snapshot program required users to attach a device to their vehicle’s diagnostic port and mail the report back to the company for a possible discount. But Farrell describes Censio’s app as a “download and drive’’ approach that offers greater convenience to consumers by removing hardware requirements and logistical hurdles. While it is currently only available to select Progressive customers, he expects the Censio app to be publicly available next year.

“We’ve been able to create a great user experience to make the process invisible to the user,’’ he said. “We think it’s a big deal and opens up 200 million drivers who could earn discounts on insurance.’’

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