Mobile phone use has made driving more dangerous.
What they're finding— by using artificial intelligence to analyze massive amounts of driver information— may radically change how auto insurance is priced.
Tech CEOs often start their companies to eliminate an obstacle they've encountered in their personal lives. Often called 'pain points' in Silicon Valley, two famous ones include Mark Zuckerberg wanting to meet more Harvard coeds and Travis Kalanick waiting too long for a ride.
But when Jonathan Matus reveals why he founded Zendrive, whose software is used to analyze driving behavior, the pain he talks about is more visceral.
"More people die in car accidents than in wars in
When he heard that statistic about his home country, Matus correctly deduced the reason: more drivers distracted by mobile phones.
It's the same in the U.S., where traffic fatalities are now going up after decades of decline. More than 40,000 Americans were killed in car accidents in 2016, a 14 percent rise since 2014, according to the National Safety Council.
That's the biggest two-year surge in five decades.
So Matus, who helped turn Google's Android into the world's dominant mobile software and later led the launch of Facebook's mobile platform, teamed up with another Google engineer, Pankaj Risbood, and in 2013 founded Zendrive.
"We can use smartphone data to save lives," Matus told CNBC in an interview.