Find that navigation voice annoying? Cellepathy feels your pain

Driving while using a cellphone is emerging as a major road scourge. An Israeli start-up has some ideas on how to fight it

An Instagram color-corrected photo of a driver using Waze in the Philippines. (Raramaurina/Flickr)
An Instagram color-corrected photo of a driver using Waze in the Philippines. (Raramaurina/Flickr)

There’s a reason why many jurisdictions ban the use of cellphones while driving. In 2014, according to US government statistics, 3,179 people were killed and 431,000 were injured in motor vehicle crashes involving distracted drivers.

In fact, the problem is so bad that distracted driving, as the phenomenon is called, now has a whole month – April – declared for the first time this year by the US National Safety Council in order to “spread the message about the dangers of cell phone use while driving.”

To help lower the risk, Israeli start-up Cellepathy has developed technology to deal with distracted driving by using a device’s sensors and cameras, and applying artificial intelligence to reduce the distraction for passengers.

For example, one of Cellepathy’s products, called Ergo, reduces drivers’ interaction with navigation software, which, according to company CEO Dan Abramson, can be a major distraction by itself.

“Drivers are constantly making decisions about their navigation software. When to turn it on, when to turn it off, when to mute it, and when to raise the volume. Ergo automates all of that using artificial intelligence and pattern recognition,” he said.

The app does that by recognizing the patterns of a driver’s usage. For example, many drivers turn off their navigation apps when they are in their own neighborhood or on their regular route home. They know the way, and if there is no traffic, why have the annoying app voice tell you to “turn left in a quarter of a mile?”

In fact, Cellepathy research shows that 45% of people who turn off their navigation app before the end of a trip (or refrain from using it entirely on some trips) do so in order to escape “the voice,” and better concentrate on their music listening.

That voice may be a distraction, but reaching out to close or open the app is an even bigger one, according to Abramason, thus the need for Ergo. The app turns off the navigation activity in areas where the driver doesn’t need it, reducing the distraction level and removing the need to deal with it.

For that idea, Cellepathy in February won the ConnecteDriver 2016 Auto App Challenge, one of the most prestigious driver app contests in the automotive industry.

Word has been getting around the auto industry about Cellepathy’s technology, and on Tuesday the company announced that it had been accepted to participate in the Dreamit Health accelerator. Considered one of the most successful accelerators in the world, Dreamit has launched more than 220 start-ups that collectively have gone on to raise more than $275 million and are worth more than $1 billion in enterprise value.

“Navigation companies compete aggressively on features and user experience” said Sean Ir, Cellepathy’s marketing director. “Ergo will provide our partners with a huge point of differentiation in the marketplace.”

Cellepathy was selected for Dreamit’s inaugural 2016 cycle from an applicant pool of nearly 1,000 companies from over 40 countries based on metrics including the strength of the team, uniqueness of insights into the problems they are solving, and their capacity to revolutionize the industries in which they operate.

Dreamit was impressed with Cellepathy’s application of artificial intelligence to mobile device sensor data to address frequently driver attention and decision making, the company said.

“April is Distracted Driving Awareness Month, so this is very timely,” said Abramson. “We look forward to working closely with Dreamit’s partner companies, including the Center for Injury Prevention and Research at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, to save more people from the epidemic of distracted driving.”

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