Last week your intrepid Insurance Edge Editor travelled to Charles Trent Recycling in Rugby to watch some crash-testing of the latest Little Theo gadget, which is designed and continously developed by ThingCo.
I have a great deal of time for Mike, Jonny and the ThingCo team because they’re trying to take telematics OUT of the young driver ghetto. Yes, for decades the black box has been a sort of Parental Control device, often fitted to an ageing Renault Clio or Vauxhall Corsa and its primary function is to effectively ground the novice driver after 11pm at night. Plus let anxious parents know where the actual car is parked overnight, especially when they are away on holiday.
So what makes Little Theo a bit different?
Well this is a driving coach, plus an emergency service, as well as a speed, accelerations and geo-location tracker. You can build up a driver score and get rewards, in short you get more involved in the tech and don’t feel that it’s just a spy in the back seat. Unlike most other telematics devices, it merely sticks to the windscreen, it doesn’t need hard-wiring into the car’s electrics.
All that neatly sidesteps any accusations that the fitter didn’t do the job correctly and that’s why the telematics box stopped working, or the car broke down with a flat battery etc.
How does it work? Solar baby, the greenest power there is basically and longevity is built-in. You may think that if you parked your classic BMW 7 Series in the garage over winter the Little Theo gadget would die, but nope – ThingCo have tested it and it can last for almost a year on a full charge. Obviously, like most solar devices such as Citizen or Seiko watches, it doesn’t need sunshine, just ambient light gets to the photovoltaic cell.
TESTING 1-2-3 GO!
There is no substitute for real world tests and I say this as someone who tested – and occasionally crashed – motorcycles and cars as part of my journo job for about 22 years.
In that time I was lucky enough to have just three `offs’, two at the racetrack and one realtively low speed whilst doing a U-turn on a Ducati Monster. Which has a big turning circle as it happens. I can tell you that once the tyres have lost traction at Brands Hatch or Three Sister circuits around 70mph, you don’t get to choose or influence what happens next. Various bike-Tarmac interactions will smash fairings, headlamps, shred sidepanels, seats etc. Skin and bone too sometimes.
Watch some drone footage here;
The point is this; you can run a virtual AI-powered program 170 times a day to simulate what will happen in a crash. But you won’t know for sure until the real thing happens. People react in all kinds of different ways, shock can set in rapidly, memory can play tricks. So that is why accurate, verifiable data really matters.
The exercise at Charles Trent was to find out how a Little Theo device behaves in a low speed shunt, and then another crash…and another. Will the sticky pads keep it in place? Does the voice feature kick-in as it should when rapid deceleration from 20mph happens?
That’s what we watched at the test track and it was very impressive. Not only did Little Theo stay in situ, but it worked perfectly. Detecting the impact immediately and activating its voice feature to ask if the driver was OK, needed emergency services etc. It also takes a snapshot of data, such as braking force, exact location, speed the car was travelling at before the collision etc.
Now that all proves useful when it comes to sifting facts from opinion after a minor accident. Once a certain level of blame can be established, the follow-on actions can get underway from both sets of insurers. There is a potentially huge saving for insurers here on things like credit hire and legal expenses, because much of the argument has been settled. Less time, equals less money.
This is how Little Theo gets in touch after it detects an incident;
The most impressive takeaway from the day is how determined everyone at ThingCo is to develop a product that can save a life. There are more cars on UK roads than ever and more uninsured drivers too. Getting help immediately after an incident is arguably the best way insurers can help customers, because assistance when it matters sticks in the memory.
Gadgets like Little Theo also offer consumers and insurers the chance to sell the idea of data driven insurance; your score becomes your portable NCD, a record of your skills, overnight parking, commuting etc. Insurers and brokers get to sift that data and pre-fill so many tedious questions when it comes to renewal time – less pain for the customer.