Big Brother in the car

Upgraded GPS device Dynamic Driver not only tells you how to drive, it can also report you to the police. For your own good.

In 1993, Ori Software CEO Nuriel Hatav had a serious traffic accident. From the first day after he was injured, and for all the time since then, all his thoughts have been about one thing how to reduce the number of traffic accidents as much as possible. His basic idea was wonderfully simple and logical to connect a detailed transportation map to a global positioning system (GPS), so that the system will be aware of the road conditions and what the car is doing at every moment, and will warn the driver of approaching disaster. The system he developed is called Dynamic Driver.

Hatavs accident, for example, occurred when he failed to stop at a stop sign that was obscured by a tree. As a result, he entered an impassable road at high speed, and his car turned over. Had Dynamic Driver been installed in his car, it would have warned him that there was a stop sign at the junction, even if the sign itself were covered, or had fallen down. In addition, the system would have warned him that he was driving too fast for the area around the stop sign. It might even have been possible to update the systems main map to give a warning that the road that he was about to enter was impassable. The device can also warn drivers that they are parking in an illegal location, crossing a solid white line, about to enter a junction that they cannot get through in time, making a illegal U-turn, etc.

So far, this sounds like a tool that some drivers might buy for themselves in order to avoid accidents and tickets, and improve their driving. Ori Softwares entrepreneurs, however, are aiming much higher. Well use my experience to make you better drivers, says Hatav.

We have two possible business plans, says VP Amos Sadon, Hatavs partner in the company, and one of the developers of the system. One is to pass a law in the Knesset saying that every car sold in Israel must have such a device installed in it. If such a law isnt passed, well have to appeal to private consumers. In that case, well sell the system to vehicle fleets and parents of children who are new drivers, so that they can use it.

If the law is passed requiring each car to install the program, every violation by a driver will be monitored: every case of speeding, every illegal stop, every U-turn, and every failure to stop at a stop sign. The device will compare what is required by field conditions to the cars behavior, and issue a ticket the moment that the rules are broken.

"Globes": Will every violation be sent immediately to the police? It seems to me that they wont be able to handle the load of tickets.

Sadon: The system can be calibrated to issue a warning first, and a ticket only on the tenth violation, or to issue tickets only for particularly serious violations. Everything will be done automatically; there will be no overload on the police.

There will surely be a flood of appeals by traffic violators claiming that the device is inaccurate.

Hatav: The device is accurate. Well develop it to such a degree that it can constitute proof in a courtroom.

Look, Im against traffic accidents, but the idea that a Trojan Horse like this in my own car is telling me how to driver and reporting to the police makes me a little uptight. A mans car is his castle.

Sadon and Hatav see it differently. Are you telling me that you wont thank me for a machine that will cost you a NIS 100 ticket if it saves you from a traffic accident that will cost you thousands of shekels, not to mention your life?, Sadon says. Hatav adds, You wont talk like that after youve been in a traffic accident. This device can prevent so many accidents I say a quarter of accidents, and thats a very conservative estimate.

It appears that the Ministry of Transport is in no hurry to install the program, which will cost NIS 600 per device, but which will generate significant revenue on tickets from every car in Israel. The Minister of Transport is excited about the idea of requiring installation of the device for serious traffic violators only, which comprises 500,000 drivers, Hatav explains. The idea is that drivers whose licenses have been suspended will be able to get their licenses back only if the device is installed. If the device reports another serious violation, or a series of minor violations, the drivers license will be suspended again.

What were you doing in Beit Hakerem?

Under the second scenario, in which the Knesset does not enact a law requiring every car to install the device, the company will have to market to consumers interested in the device, such as parents, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), and corporate vehicle fleets.

Hatav: All children drive best when their parents are sitting next to them. With the device, mothers and fathers can get a message the moment that their child commits a violation. For example, if the child gets a speeding ticket in Beit Hakerem, the parents can say, You wont get the car until you drive like a human being. Furthermore, what were you doing in Beit Hakerem, when you said you were in Tel Aviv? In this case, the parents will get the message, not the police.

Cant the device be turned off?

Sadon: No. The minute the device is turned off, it sends a message to the parents. If a child starts to sabotage the device, it can warn the child, If you get one inch closer, Ill tell your parents.

Are companies with vehicle fleets interested in monitoring their employees like this?

Hatav: Yes, because proper driving preserves the car. Weve already initiated a pilot program with the IDF, which is very interested in the system. In March 2006, were due to start a pilot with them for about 200 vehicles.

I want to buy the system for myself, but without reporting to anyone. Is that possible?

Yes, I assume that its possible.

Theyll wait for us overseas

Hatav was formerly a partner and CEO at Osher Systems Computerization & Regulation Ltd. Ilan Davidovich, Ori Softwares business development manager, developed the idea with Hatav. He is a college lecturer and adviser in computers and aeronautics. Sadon, Ori Softwares VP, who joined a little later, was an engineering technician in electronics at Elta Electronic Industries.

Ori Softwares entrepreneurs and private investors have invested $350,000 to date in the company. The company needs another $200,000 for the order and installing the Dynamic Driver in the IDF pilot project.

Developing a map of stop signs, roads, and hazards is one of the key points in the products success. Ori Software is therefore very excited about a cooperation initiative from Mapa, one of Israels leading map publishers. Ori Software is just as excited about other potential partners who have contacted it. Were interested in investing, but we definitely wont sell the company for a mess of pottage at the first generous offer, Hatav says. At the moment, an investor is waiting for our answer as to whether well take him into the company. Were checking him out. If we arent convinced that all of the companys activity will take place according to the purposes for which we founded it, we wont sell any of it. None of us depends on this company for a living. Were all doing other things.

Are you cooperating with organizations that promote careful driving, such as Or Yarok (Green Light)?

Were not actively cooperating with these organizations, although were in regular contact with them. Or Yarok hasnt joined forces with us, because theyre fully occupied with increasing awareness of traffic accidents and changing priorities, not in any particular solution. Theyre doing good work, and theyre more open to our suggestions than they have been in the past.

Hatav stresses that despite its motivation, his company has real economic viability behind it, not just ideology. Anybody investing in the company will make a big profit in the long run, in addition to the wonderful knowledge that he has saved lives, he declares.

Published by Globes [online] - www.globes.co.il - on August 1, 2005

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