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Smart mobility firms join forces to tackle accidents and traffic on the roads

A pilot project will see Moovit, Nexar and other companies sharing user data with road operator Netivei Israel to monitor a piece of coastal Route 2; new platform protects privacy

Shoshanna Solomon is The Times of Israel's Startups and Business reporter

A traffic jam on Highway 2 (the coastal road) near Netanya, northern Israel, October 22, 2019. (Flash90)
A traffic jam on Highway 2 (the coastal road) near Netanya, northern Israel, October 22, 2019. (Flash90)

A group of Israeli smart mobility companies have set up a consortium with government entities, municipalities and transportation companies in a recently launched national project to decrease accidents and reduce traffic congestion.

As part of the private-public cooperation, the 20 tech firms that joined will anonymously share the user data they collect via their apps, traffic cameras and other sources of information with researchers so they can develop new ways to better navigate traffic, reduce car accidents and traffic congestion, improve road infrastructure and cut air pollution.

To enable this collaboration the consortium set up a nonprofit organization called the Israel Smart Mobility Living Lab (ISMLL), whose aim is to accelerate transportation innovation at a national level and facilitate collaborations between its participants by introducing data and technology-based national projects.

“Life-saving solutions will not come from just one firm,” said Smadar Itskovitch, the head of ISMLL. “There has to be sharing of data and collaboration from a variety of technologies.”

Smadar Itskovitch, the CEO of the Israel Smart Mobility Living Lab (ISMLL)

With that aim, the ISMLL set up an artificial intelligence-based platform via which the data can be shared between the entities securely, protecting the privacy of the app users as well as the business data and intellectual property of the firms that are part of the project.

The idea behind ISMLL is based on the “Data Trust” concept developed by MIT professor Sandy Pentland, which provides a legal, technical and governance framework that allows organizations to securely share their data to generate insights that will be helpful both to the public as well as to the firms developing the technologies and apps, Itskovitch said.

The initiative, launched earlier this month, has received $1 million in funding from the Israel Innovation Authority and is supported by the Fuel Choices and Smart Mobility Initiative.

The ISMLL on Wednesday launched its first pilot study, which will be conducted on the Route 2 coastal highway between Netanya and the Glilot intersections in a bid to lower traffic congestion.

The project was announced during EcoMotion Week 2021, an international conference held virtually this year on May 18-20 that features executives and entrepreneurs from the automotive and smart mobility ecosystem.

As part of the Route 2 pilot, nine tech firms, including Moovit, a provider of a free crowdsourced app about public transportation schedules, Tomorrow.io, which provides weather insights, and Nexar, a maker of a vehicle-to-vehicle network that aims to detect dangers on the road and prevent collisions, will share data about their users, which will be combined with information from street cameras and drones, to provide the nonprofit state-owned National Transport Infrastructure Company (Netivei Israel) with crowdsourced data that it will then process via the ISMLL platform.

The project will also install thermal road cameras that enable night and bad weather vision, and Wi-Fi and Bluetooth sensors that enable monitoring public transportation usage on the selected part of the highway.

“This is a breakthrough,” said Hilla Haddad, VP Strategy and Innovation at Netivei Israel. “For the first time, government-owned organizations and successful high-tech companies cooperate to produce an actionable tool to reduce traffic congestion.”

ISMLL’s Itskovitch said that “collecting traffic and road data will enable Netivei Israel to analyze the causes of traffic congestion and decide how to work to reduce it: changing the timing of traffic lights, adding more buses or bus routes, or solving poor vision problems. Sharing the collected data through ISMLL’s platform will enable public sector companies to face complicated public challenges more effectively.”

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