“Saving lives is more important than money,” so said Alon Atsmon, CEO of iOnRoad, a subsidiary of Picitup, a company with a core technology of creating three-dimensional, computer vision solutions for online retailers, such as ebay. iOnRoad is starting to disrupt an entirely different and still nascent market segment known as Advanced Driver Assisted Systems (ADAS). As Atsmon pointed out in a pre-CES briefing today, the beneficiary of this disruption could be the mobile carrier.
iOnRoad is built around a free app (today only available for Android) that incorporates the multiple sensors (e.g., cameras, GPS) to create a real-time, augmented reality view of the road ahead. Probably the most important aspect of this app is the warning signals (tail-gating, speeding, lane-drift alerts) it provides to the driver; warning signals that could save a life.
What will hook users, however, may be the time-saving, gamification and social networking features.
- For instance, for the business traveler who parks his vanilla rental car in a massive parking lot, the app automatically takes a photo of the location where he parked – finally, no more forgetting that generic rental car.
- Driving down a rural road where you have no idea what the speed limit is? The app uses a crowd-sourced database to discern the speed limit and warn the ignorant driver (a few months ago, this app would have saved this author a $100+ dollars and untold grief from his spouse, as well as the ire of a MN State Trooper).
- Safe driving as a game – the app tracks your driving and rewards points for how you do (e.g. tailgating warnings will knock off points). It becomes a bit of a game and it isn’t too hard to imagine friends, family members or even communities competing for “best driver”.
- The app as a driving simulator and teaching tool. With a fake gas pedal and a steering wheel, the combination of this app, along with an online video of a road course, could provide a low-cost driving simulator, providing valuable, low-cost feedback before that 15-year-old jumps behind a real-wheel. Atsmon suggests that iOnRaod is seeing an improvement in driving skills after a driver uses this app for just a short time.
With such valuable information at their fingertips, the iOnRoad team is very protective of the data and is adamant that the drivers will have control over how it is used. Although there are many ways this data could be monetized (think alerts for available parking spots, virtual billboards, audio alerts suggesting a nearby favorite taqueria or good driver incentives from an insurance company), Atsmon is in not looking to monetize every possible benefit this app brings; a luxury of having a successful parent company with a common CEO.
Their freemium model has spurred rapid growth to over 200k Android users in just a few short months, since its October 2011 launch. Atsmon pointed out that telecom carriers could be one of the beneficiaries of this app, particularly if it is bundled as part of their offering. Atsmon reports that it is the number two application on the T-Mobile app store in Germany.
One of the best features of this app isn’t the app itself, but the fact that iOnRoad researched and highlights on their website the best windshield mounts for various smart phones. Mounted on the windshield, the smart phone augments, instead of detracts from the driving experience. The speedometer feature allows one to know how fast he travels, while keeping a closer eye on the road ahead.
Atsmon reports that, because it uses GPS technology fused with other smart phone onboard sensors, it is more accurate than the analog methods employed by the traditional automobile speedometer.
At the end of a drive, one can see how fast he drove, his route, where he had “warnings” and the total number of “safety points.”
It all gets back to safety for the iOnRoad folks. The recent NTSB report recommending a ban paints a pretty grim picture of over 3,000 deaths due to distracted driving in 2010 alone:
“The NTSB has called on the 50 states and the District of Columbia to ban the nonemergency use of PEDs (other than those designed to support the driving task) for all drivers.”
iOnRoad’s app, is inherently hands-free and, given that its enhances safety, may be what prevents a potential crisis in the mobile industry if a ban comes to fruition. For Atsmon, the satisfaction that will come with creating a safety system that is affordable for all will be reward enough for he and his colleagues.