Device Analyzes Driver Data For Safer Roads

By Frank Filipponio, AOL Autos

(Ren?hrhardt, Flickr).

(AOL Autos)

Anyone who has watched Deadliest Catch on TV knows that deep sea fishing is a dangerous job. In fact it’s considered the most dangerous job of all. Professional trucker, though, is perhaps not-so-surprisingly number three on that list, right behind coal miner. That’s why a group that includes Virgin mogul Richard Branson and everybody’s favorite green politician Al Gore has helped develop GreenRoad. What’s GreenRoad?

GreenRoad is a transportation safety device created by an Israeli entrepreneur after a chance run-in with a few bad drivers.

While out driving one night he was cut off by a carload of kids and thought, “If only their parents knew how they were driving” That incident inspired him to create something that evolved into GreenRoad: a device that logs data that can be used to monitor driving habits in a vehicle.

How It Works

The 2-inch gadget shines green when first activated. If the operator drives in a way that the unit deems reckless, the light turns yellow. If the driver persists in driving erratically, the illumination will turn red.

Originally envisioned as a consumer product, GreenRoad is now marketed to commercial fleets. Studies prove that aggressive driving wastes fuel, costs money and takes lives. Commercial fleets alone lose $230 billion to accidents every year. The device itself is pretty simple, utilizing available components like a GPS chip, accelerometer and CPU. It is designed to be smart enough to avoid false positives and to be unobtrusive enough to not affect driver morale or attention.

GreenRoad has 80 customers thus far, with a three-year license going for $1,000 per vehicle. The company is still looking for backing, however, having raised about $40 million already, mainly from Richard Branson’s Virgin Green Fund, Balderton Capital in London, Benchmark and DAG Ventures. Another $10 million will be chipped in by Generation Investment, the fund founded by Al Gore and former Goldman Sachs CEO David Blood. The company sees this as potentially an $80 billion industry, so they might be onto something.

A competitor to GreenRoad, TIWI, is taking a slightly different approach to a similar problem. As our own Craig Howie told us in his personal review, the TIWI is being targeted at parents of teenage drivers. The TIWI device sells for $299 plus a $39.99 monthly service charge. While the in-car device gives drivers audible warnings when programmable limits have been exceeded, the device also sends email alerts and text messages to parents with customizable reports that detail driving behavior. Inthinc, the maker of the TIWI, says that driver behavior actually improves with use, those audible bleeps giving constant reminders to drive better. They even say that insurance discounts might be available.

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