We're living in an age of obsession with measuring every aspect of what we do. From hours of sleep, number of steps, and calories consumed, to monitoring our emotional state. New innovations and technologies being unveiled at a rapid pace makes this incredibly easy for people to do.
As researchers, this gives us tools, like never before, to understand human behaviour at a more complex level. Our latest research collaboration at Goldsmiths, University of London with Shell V-Power for its worldwide driving experiment applies these tools to driving - something that most of us spend days and weeks of our lives doing, without properly understanding what we can do to make it more enjoyable, safer, and efficient, not only for ourselves, but for passengers and other motorists.
While driving we can become irritable and in turn aggressive, affecting our mental state and even our blood pressure. Furthermore, the way we drive could be impacting our wallet, with driving techniques like harsh braking and acceleration ultimately using more fuel.
Our new social experiment design applies methods of observation permitted by new wearable tracking technologies, chatbots and other data capture sources to look at the factors that impact our journeys. We wanted to paint the clearest possible picture of what motorists are experiencing on the roads all around the world, by tracking real people taking real journeys - no lab coats or stunt vehicles required.
We looked at a combination of the internal and external factors we encounter in our vehicles, such as the driver's diet, hydration and sleep levels, and contextual factors like weather conditions and traffic congestion.
Wearable wristbands provide biometric information about the driver, such as heart rate, blood pressure, breath rate and mood swings, and participants used the Shell Motorist App to measure speed, acceleration and braking.
So what did we find? This week we revealed the results from the Netherlands*, which shed new light on Dutch drivers:
Who you are determines how you drive
Personality type links strongly with driving style. Ambitious and Energetic driver types are more assertive and achieved high driving performance scores.
Switch off the music and laugh
Shell wanted to understand the impact of in-car entertainment sources on driver moods. We asked participants to listen to comedy podcasts on their usual journeys, resulting in increased happiness behind the wheel. Currently only 18% of Dutch drivers currently listen to comedy.
Grey days aren't all bad
The research found that driving performance improved in cloudy, overcast weather; a fine day doesn't always mean a fine drive.
Don't skip breakfast
Drivers who felt craving through factors like hunger or dehydration achieved lower driving efficiency scores.** 77% of drivers in the Netherlands rarely or never drink water during a journey.
We also discovered four distinct driver types, can you spot elements of your own driving personality amongst them?
Ambitious Drivers (40% of Dutch people relate to these personality traits): The highest performing drivers on the road, they are confident and pull with the ability to often predict situations before they occur, counteracting risk. They use more assertive driving techniques than other drivers and normally get a good night's sleep with minimal disruptions.
Sensitive Drivers (16% of Dutch people relate to these personality traits): Exercise caution both in life and likely on the road. They are impacted by external factors like the weather and music to feel relaxed. When stressed, they often use breathing techniques to remain calm.
Energetic Drivers (26% of Dutch people relate to these personality traits): Social and talkative, they thrive off the energy of others. Their mood tends to be happy and cheerful and they maintain an assertive driving style. They enjoy listening to comedy and having passengers in the car.
Resilient Drivers (7% of Dutch people relate to these personality traits): Resilient to stressful situations, acting as a buffering system against setbacks. They are confident and have a smooth driving style and use less harsh driving techniques. They stay hydrated and make the effort to relax while driving.
Ultimately what we set out to achieve was to find out what changes can be made by both drivers and Shell to make journeys more enjoyable. While the Dutch study is only the beginning of this worldwide experiment across ten countries, it proposes some actionable solutions. We can't change the weather or our personality type, but we can ensure we're adequately hydrated and avoid skipping meals, or enhance our in-car experience with entertainment. It's about taking small steps to make the journey better.
*The Dutch study observed nearly 300,000 data points from 320 drivers across over 2,800 journeys in the Netherlands between 20 April - 5 May 2017.
**Driver efficiency scores are obtained through the Shell Motorist App, which uses GPS to combine journey duration, speed, harsh breaking and acceleration to calculate a unique driver score.