A Modern Believe It or Not: Phones, Autos, and Safety

June 24, 2022

Auto insurance firm Jerry recently put out a study purporting to prove Android users are safer drivers than those who use iPhones. It almost looks like a desperate, shadow PR move from Google; is the company so insecure it feels compelled to reshape data to “prove” its quantum supremacy? If so, The Next Web thwarts its efforts in the analysis, “Sorry Android Users, You’re Actually NOT the Safest Drivers.” Writer Cate Lawrence examines Jerry’s research then proceeds to poke holes in its conclusions. She writes:

“In its research, Jerry analyzed data collected from 20,000 drivers during 13 million kilometers of driving over 14 days. The data generated an overall driving score and sub-scores for acceleration, speed, braking, turning, and distraction. Then it grouped the results by smartphone operating system and various demographic characteristics. Specifically, the research found that Android users scored an overall 75, trumping iPhone users’ score of 69 in terms of safe driving overall. Sure, they scored higher, but there’s not much of a difference between 69 and 75. And even less between 82 and 84 for accelerating, or 78 and 80 for braking. Overall, I’m not sure these are significant enough differences to instigate any kind of action or triumph. Look, I get it. You number crunch, and you want to make a big assertion to prove a hypothesis, or whatever. … But these numbers are more nice than assertive. The only one that really interested me was distracted driving. This category had the biggest difference, with Android users scoring 74 over iPhone users’ 68, seven points higher. I would have liked some insights on this.”

For example, she suggests, perhaps the iPhone’s apps are more distracting or its users more absorbed in selecting audio material. Alas, the Jerry report is more about pushing its main assertion than in exploring insights.

The study also looked at disparities by educational levels and credit ratings, reporting Android users on the low end of both scales outperformed iPhone users at all levels. Though it failed to explore reasons that may be, Lawrence suggested a couple: Those with less education and with lower credit scores are likely to have lower income levels, and Android phones tend to be more affordable than iPhones. Perhaps lower-income folks have more driving experience, or they are more careful because they cannot afford a ticket. We simply do not know, and neither does Jerry. Instead, the study asserts it comes down to differences in personality between Android and iPhone users. Though it can point to a couple of sources that could be seen to back it up, we agree with the write-up that the connection is a “bit of a stretch.” Sorry Google, your PR arm will have to try harder. Or you could just focus on making a better OS.

Cynthia Murrell, June 24, 2022

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