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DriveCam's monitoring systems reduce driving risks

Posted: 15 May 2008 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:road safety? driving risks? driver assistance?

The most successful driver-assistance systems now are not real-time, like the EyeQ SoC from STMicroelectronics and Mobileye, but, instead, offer reports on dangerous driving incidents the next day. By using pattern recognition system to detect risky driving, and experts to give advice on how to improve the individual's driving safety record, companies like DriveCam Inc. are lowering costs for fleet owners and give parents peace of mind about their reckless-driving teenagers. DriveCam monitors its in-vehicle cameras 24/7 for $75 per month, providing recordings of all risky events, along with written evaluation and concrete advice, to ensure the driver's safety.

"The core of our capabilities is not the real-time recording, but the off-line post-processing that keeps us from uploading and reviewing video recordings with useless data. We use a very sophisticated algorithm that monitors our three-axis accelerometer, along with the GPS and speed data, to determine whether the risk of an event would be valuable enough to the trainer to warrant uploading," said Peter Ellegaard, VP, DriveCam's hardware and firmware engineering. "We have a video buffer that helps us identify what the driver sees and does before, during and after a triggered event. Our "Risk-Predict" algorithm then screens the recorded risky events and uploads them."

Market penetration
DriveCam currently has mobile cameras in more than 100,000 commercial and consumer vehicles; and a 100-percent penetration in a few markets, such as Las Vegas' taxis, which are all equipped with DriveCams. When a risky event occurred, aside from being video-recorded and evaluated by Risk Predicts, all DriveCams monitor their own internal three-axis MEMS accelerometer to detect potentially dangerous driving incidents.

"We capture events because of an accelerometer trigger built in our device. Based on hard-braking, hard-acceleration and swerving incidents, we are able to view video recordings of what happened before, during and after a risky event," said Ellegaard.

As the automatically triggered events are recorded, these are validated before uploaded in DriveCam's Risk Predict pattern-recognition software that runs in overnight batches. Verified dangerous events then have their video uploaded to DriveCam using the Sierra Wireless 3G module that connects to Sprint EVDO. Uploaded events are analyzed by DriveCam's experts and sent to the clients with instructional training suggestions for those responsible in the actual coaching of drivers.

"Our Sierra Wireless 3G connection uploads the events deemed valuable by our recognition software, which the University of Michigan helped us design. Then we have actual people score the risky events which are then sent to the fleet manager, or in the case of consumers, the parents of the teenagers, who will do the actual training," said Ellegaard.

DriveCam claims this approach reduces vehicle damage, workers' compensation and personal injury costs by half for its fleet clients. For the consumers, the company claims a 70-percent reduction in crashes with teenage drivers who have DriveCam in their vehicles.

Vote of confidence
American Family, an insurance company, gives its clients a free DriveCam when they request for it. The company pays for the hardware and installation, and the monitoring fees for uploading and scoring of dangerous incidents.

"American Family saves more from reduced claims, than what it costs the company to pay for DriveCam's service," stressed Ellegaard.

DriveCam is one step beyond GM's OnStar and Ford's Sync, which has GPS and wireless connections but no camera-based driver assistance. DriveCam's two-camera system can be installed in any vehicle, with one camera looking ahead and the other showing the driver. A control unit attached to the seat contains a Linux-based microprocessor that monitors the cameras, the GPS signal and the three-axis accelerometer. It uploads all collected data via the Sierra Wireless 3G service.

- R. Colin Johnson
EE Times

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