Image generated by the mobile app Driver which monitors both road conditions and driver … [+]
You’re driving along when a pedestrian suddenly dashes out into the street triggering warning beeps to alert you take action. That alert isn’t coming from a sophisticated advanced driver assistance system (ADA ADA S) or from the console of an autonomous vehicle, but courtesy a free smartphone app called Driver created by startup Driver Technologies Inc.
On Tuesday, the company announced the formal launch of a paid, premium version that offers a wide menu of additional features.
Using a combination of a smartphone’s camera and artificial intelligence, Driver ratchets up the device from a simple dash cam to what Driver Technologies co-founder and CEO Rashid Galadanci calls MADAS, mobile advanced driver assistance system.
Rashid Galadanci, Driver Technologies Inc. co-founder and CEO
“As you drive we monitor the road outside the vehicle for cars, pedestrians, motorcycles, buses, trucks, animals, things like that, understanding the lanes, understanding the distance between you and those objects and then we monitor the driver for drowsiness and distraction, attentiveness, playing with the phone, what direction they’re looking and then real time on the edge we alert you audibly and visually if we think you’re at risk or we think you’re falling asleep,” Galadanci explained in an interview with Forbes.com.
All that is available on the free version of Driver. After a soft launch, the company announced Tuesday, the availability of a premium version that carries a monthly charge of $4.99 for consumers and higher rates for fleets and commercial organizations.
DriverCloud is a new feature of the premium version of the Driver mobile app that gives users access … [+]
That cost adds access to national roadside assistance through a partnership with the mobile app Honk, gas discounts through GasBuddy and DriverCloud where users can store video of their trips for later review or sharing on social media or with police or insurance companies to document incidents.
In addition to individual motorists the premium version of Drive is also aimed at fleets which might otherwise invest large sums for management systems to monitor driver behavior and activities along with providing links to secure road assistance.
“The commercial industry isn’t aligned with the products out there. 99% of the market are mom and pop fleets or one or two vehicles,” said Galadanci. “the last thing they need is to install is $700 a month hardware.”
It’s basically using existing smartphone capabilities that “unfortunately are used mostly for things like Pokemon Go!,” Galadanci cracked.
If many vehicles already are equipped with ADAS, why bother installing and using Driver, let alone pay for a premium version? Galadanci estimates only 8% of U.S. drivers actually have access to ADAS, park-assist or lane awareness technology in their cars or trucks and widely available and affordable self-driving vehicles for the general population are a pipe dream.
“I realized in horror some time in 2016 that despite the marketing pitch that was coming out of the (Silicon) valley, we weren’t going to have autonomous cars by the end of that year or the next year or the year after and they certainly weren’t going to work everywhere in the U.S. let alone everywhere in the world and what that would mean was we would have this continuation of the 1% of the 1% get access to this technology and no one else does,” Galadanci said as he related his thoughts in founding the company.
He stresses, however, even in ADAS-equipped vehicles Driver can be a supplement and not a substitute.
Galadanci grew up in both New Hampshire and Nigeria, his father’s homeland. While always interested in car safety, his interest became more acute after his father survived a collision while driving a Volvo in Nigeria. The other driver did not. His father exclaimed afterwards, “the Volvo saved my life” Galadanci recalled.
Thinking about the safety technology for which Volvo made a reputation along with the brand’s premium price, Galadanci rued the fact for many consumers that price was just too high.
“This kind of technology can always be difference and out of reach for a lot of people,” he explained.
Combining that reality with his lifelong interest in computer technology Galadanci decided there needed to be a more accessible way for almost any motorist at any economic level to be protected.
Thousands of drivers have found it hard to resist protection that costs nothing, or close to it.
Since the company was launched in 2018 the Driver app has been downloaded more than 200,000 times in more than 170 countries and now has “tens of thousands of active users all over the globe,” Galadanci said. For competitive reasons he declined to give exact user data.
Investors are betting Driver is in the fast lane. During a series A round of funding last year Driver Technologies raised just over $10 million from such firms as IA Capital, Liberty Mutual Strategic Ventures, State Auto Labs/Rev 1, The Social Entrepreneurs’ Fund, C2Ventures and Kapor Capital.
In the end, Galadanci believes Driver simply democratizes road safety and puts it in the hands of even the most cash-strapped motorists because while not everyone can afford a costly technology-stuffed vehicle, “everybody has a smartphone.”
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