Israel’s iOnRoad: Safer driving is just a download away

A new Israeli-created app is encouraging hundreds of thousands of drivers to drive more safely. Eventually, they may be rewarded for their efforts with lower insurance costs

iOnRoad in action (Photo credit: Courtesy)
iOnRoad in action (Photo credit: Courtesy)

Medical researchers labor around the clock searching out treatments and cures for a panoply of diseases and conditions, in an effort to save lives. But it took an Israeli tech veteran to come up with a “treatment” for what in 2010 was the 10th-leading cause of death in the United States – road accident fatalities. Drivers who use his iOnRoad app, company CEO Alon Atzmon told The Times of Israel, become “super drivers” who are much more likely to get home alive.

In the year since its release, iOnRoad has won four awards, including a top design and engineering award at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. So far, half a million people have downloaded the free app for their Android phones, a number that is guaranteed to shoot up when the app becomes available for iPhone and iPad in the near future. And most importantly, said Atzmon, “I constantly get letters from people telling me that the app saved their life.”

Using augmented reality technology, iOnRoad pairs the usual smartphone hardware — GPS/location services, cameras, and accelerometers — with advanced algorithms that turn the phone into an intelligent road safety system that will warn drivers of dangerous situations on the road. Made for mounting on your car’s windshield (the iOnRoad site has links to Amazon and other online stores where you can buy mounting equipment cheap), iOnPhone’s main purpose is to keep you from getting into a collision.

For example, when you get too close to the car ahead of you, iOnRoad will issue a video warning in yellow if you’re a little too close, or in red if you’re way too close, along with an audio warning. The app also measures your “headway distance,” telling you how much time you have before you’re in danger. iOnPhone tells you how fast you’re going, and lets you know when you’re exceeding the speed limit. The app also gives you a “personal web dashboard,” on which you can play music, make a phone call, or check a map with a single touch and with minimal distraction from your driving.

Besides all that, iOnRoad lets you help out other drivers by taking photos of road hazards or bad drivers and uploading them to Facebook. The app assigns points for safe driving, and you can compete against other iOnRoad drivers for the title of safest driver. And, the app will also, if you ask it to, record your parking spot (both with GPS and a photo), and guide you back to your vehicle using a directing arrow on a map.

Atzmon, a computer graphics veteran, developed iOnRoad during the course of his work at his other company, called PicItUp, an alternative search engine that lets you easily find graphics and images online. PicItUp is still active, and has helped online retailers large and small enable customers to more easily find the products they are looking for.

iOnRoad’s safety features sound somewhat similar to another Israeli road safety innovation, called MobileEye, which also prevents crashes by detecting when you are getting too close to other vehicles on the road. But Atzmon believes that his implementation is better. “MobileEye is a hardware system, and needs to be installed in a car by a professional. But anyone can download our app and begin using it immediately, so it’s much more accessible.” And currently, iOnRoad is the only software-based solution of its kind. Atzmon, understandably, can’t cite statistics about how many accidents iOnRoad has actually prevented, but he suspects that the number is high. “Over the past year, we’ve seen how the number of per-driver crash warnings has gone down significantly, indicating that drivers who are using iOnRoad are driving more safely.”

Those increased safe driving practices could one day turn into insurance savings, as well. iOnRoad already uses a point system to rank driver behaviors, with the best drivers getting the highest points. Atzmon foresees a scenario where drivers can voluntarily opt in to an insurance company monitoring program that will provide discounts to safe drivers, based on the iOnRoad system. “Insurance premiums are high for everyone, because the good drivers have to carry the bad ones,” said Atzmon. “Why should the good drivers be punished? I think we would be able to decrease premiums for two thirds of all drivers using iOnRoad.”

iOnRoad has been hailed at conferences around the world, Atzmon said, and has garnered a great deal of attention — not just from users, but from some of the largest companies in the world. “We’ve been contacted and have gotten offers from all sorts of companies, including car manufacturers, insurance companies, and cellphone service providers and manufacturers.” So far, Atzmon has turned down all comers, although he said he had an open mind. For now, he said, he’s satisfied to have produced an app that is literally saving lives. “We want to do good now, and later on we hope to do well.”

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