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SmartCradle uses data from your smartphone to make you a safer driver

Dashboard-mounted cameras aren’t just for recording errant meteors crashing to earth or catching insurance scammers trying to get rich quick. According to the Seattle-based tech startup, Greenlight, a dash cam can actually make you a safer driver.

Related: It’s time to protect yourself with a dash cam

Greenlight doesn’t manufacture dash cams, though, because they don’t have to. Chances are you already own one: your smartphone. The company, instead, makes a $49 SmartCradle, which secures your phone (iOS or Android) to your dashboard, keeping it charged and in plain sight. It doesn’t look much different than any other phone cradle, until you notice the glowing “G” on a large button connected to the USB cable. This, combined with the companion app, is where the real magic happens.

The app launches automatically when a phone is connected to the cradle, which immediately begins recording video and turns the “G” logo from red to green. To prevent your phone from running out of memory, video is captured in short loops that are automatically erased. To save a clip, all the driver needs to do is press the glowing green button. Even better, in the event of an accident, the app can actually save a clip automatically, by detecting sudden deceleration or swerving.

Music and navigation apps will continue to run in the background when Greenlight is active, and turn-by-turn notifications will display normally.

In an interview with GeekWire, Greenlight founder Jason Green explained the importance of simplifying the process for drivers. “It should be a one-handed operation that automatically recurs when you get into your car,” he said. “You shouldn’t have to think about it.” Green previously co-founded Contour, an action camera company that sought to compete with GoPro.

Greenlight’s larger goal goes far beyond being an easy-to-use emergency camera app, however. Green is a realist, aware of the danger posed by distracted drivers, but also cognizant of the fact that phones are now a part of our lives, and no laws or social awareness campaigns can fully prevent people from using them while driving. Instead, he believes it’s possible to make the phone both useful and safe while in the car.

Part of that is achieved simply by putting the phone in clear view, where a driver doesn’t have to look down to see a notification, but Greenlight will go step further. By tapping into the GPS and accelerometer built into a smartphone, the app will provide drivers with data about their driving habits. If you’re a motorsport fan (or have ever played a racing video game), you may be familiar with the idea of driving telemetry – information about accelerating, braking, and cornering that can be used to tune a car’s performance. In the case of Greenlight, this same information will be used to generate a “driver score” and encourage safe driving habits by showing drivers where they can improve.

This data is collected and stored anonymously, but in the future, Greenlight hopes it will be possible for drivers to use their driver score to qualify for lower insurance rates. Even without that, though, it’s hard to argue against an app that gamifies your morning commute while making you a safer driver.

The company is taking pre-orders now, for a fall delivery.