Zendrive Raises $1.5M From First Round, Jerry Yang, Max Levchin, Tim Ferris And Others To Use Big Data To Fix Driving

Zendrive, a startup that aims to make driving better by using data from smartphone sensors, today announced that it has raised $1.5 million from a group of backers including First Round Capital, Max Levchin, Jerry Yang, Tim Ferriss and “many other tech founders and leading investors.” The company hasn’t launched its product yet, but as Zendrive co-founder Jonathan Matus told me, the company plans to use today’s funding round to get ready to launch within the next few months.

For the time being, Matus is keeping under wraps the exact details of what Zendrive will look like. What’s clear, though, is that Zendrive plans to use the data it gathers from your smartphone’s sensors and from drivers around you to “fix driving.” Matus and his co-founder Pankaj Risbood believe that data can revolutionize driving by providing drivers with more and smarter information and, at the same time, keep them safer and “take back the joy of driving.”

Some of the potential uses Matus walked me through sounded a bit like what Google already does with the massive amount of traffic data it gathers. For example, you could use Zendrive to figure out when to best leave for work in the morning based on traffic data it gathers. The twist here, Matus tells me, would be that the system could figure out when your neighbors leave for work and how much time it takes them to get to a location near your job, so Zendrive could suggest you leave 10 minutes earlier to shave some time off your commute.

The other idea Matus told me is to use the data gathered from your driving history to help you find better deals on auto insurance. Maybe you had a small accident in the past and your rates are high. With Zendrive you could show your insurance company — assuming it trusts Zendrive’s data — that you are now a mellow driver who never speeds or makes frequent emergency stops. Zendrive, Matus notes, could also reward safe drivers with discounts to local restaurants or other deals.

Parents could also use the system to track their teenagers’ driving habits and compare them to those of the average person in their town.

Unlike other companies that also aim to use data to monitor and change your driving habits, Zendrive isn’t interested in plugging into your car’s data port like Automatic or similar projects. Matus’ background is in mobile while his co-founder Risbood has been knee-deep in big data. They believe that the ubiquity of smartphones will allow them to get virtually the same kind of data (excluding fuel efficiency).

Image credit: Flickr user andjohan