Artificial intelligence offers a solution to reduce collisions and distracted driving. Nauto’s intelligent connected dashcam packed with AI prevents accidents and improves the driving skills of fleet drivers.
Dr Stefan Heck, CEO and Founder of Nauto explains how it all works to Auto Futures.
Heck has a PhD in cognitive science. He studied neural networks and AI. He was commuting to work riding a bicycle which allowed him to see the dangers of distracted driving. He realised that autonomous vehicles were not going to save the day. However, he could develop technology to prevent accidents and make good drivers better.
Nauto first tested its technology using smartphones which did not work due to battery drain and overheating. The phones could record only twenty minutes of video. However, fleet drivers are on the road 10-12 hours a day.
“When we started, we found distracted driving causes most accidents,” says Heck.
When he talked to the police, he discovered that accidents caused by distracted drivers, the police usually report in other ways. Drivers do not want to admit that they are distracted.
Recently, Heck witnessed a car accident on a nearby street. A driver hit parked cars. When he looked inside, he saw a broken smartphone. The accident was not reported as a distracted driving incident.
“The main focus for Nauto is driver safety. The big difference between our service and telematics or video monitoring services is AI recognition. The huge benefit is the decrease of collisions now,” says Heck.
Several hundred fleets with tens of thousands of drivers use Nauto AI.
The Nauto device, designed by IDEO, fits neatly on the windscreen. It features cameras facing the driver and road with sensors. The intelligent dashcam can be hardwired into the vehicle or self-installed connected to the OBD port for rideshare drivers. The device has an LTE connection, the compute on board and the AI to respond and alert quickly to give the driver more time to respond, says Heck.
“You can not rely on 4G or 5G to go up to the cloud because you need something on board,” says Heck.
Say a driver is speeding and needs to slow down, the warning sounds are programmed to indicate the correct response, a fast beat transitioning to a slower beat. The frequency is also at pitches that are audible in a vehicle that has engine and wind noise.
Heck notes that with video monitoring, staff watches the videos or the videos are recorded. Then the driving style is rated and addressed by a manager. The Nauto device warns the driver instantly.
“For a few hundred dollars, Nauto helps improve driving 80% today.”
Distractions detected include video conferencing, tablet use, texting, eating food, writing up paperwork on a clipboard or smoking.
A distraction causes a warning sound with the word ‘distraction’ that increases with intensity. The sound is designed like an alarm to wake somebody up who is falling asleep, says Heck.
One Nauto success story is a food truck driver who was driving and started to fall asleep. Because of a warning, he hit the brakes and swerved around the truck in front. The manager and the driver thanked Nauto for saving his life.
Nauto warnings are intelligent. It will let the driver go a few miles over the speed limit separately from tailgating but will not allow both of them at once. Multiple factors contribute to the AI to help the driver.
Nauto is not the same as a driver video monitoring device or a telematics device for more advanced telematics functions partner Geotab will add on more telematics functionality to Nauto Service.
During the pandemic, face mask detection was to the functions that already included seat belt detection. Nauto can be programmed to meet the privacy policies of the fleet when the cameras are recording. Nauto can not detect if a driver is sick but can detect if the driving has changed over time. Nauto recently added warnings for pedestrian collision, speeding, progressive fatigue/drowsiness and intersection violations.
Preventing collisions is very important for fleets. When there is a collision by a fleet driver, the owner of the vehicle is responsible because they own the vehicle and the driver is an employee, he notes.
“We are finding that the fleet drivers are excellent drivers. They know their route and can have 25 years of experience. Usually, the drivers who are not doing well are the new drivers.”
Nauto costs more than a telematics system. Telematics will improve drivers driving by about 10 to 15%. Nauto will improve driving from 50 to 80%. Therefore, for twice the price, a fleet company will get three to eight times driving improvement. Most drivers when using the Nauto system have an 80% improvement, Heck says.
“We’re working with auto and truck makers to integrate into vehicle systems to trigger braking, air conditioning and the radio in the future.”
He adds: “For a few hundred dollars, Nauto helps improve driving 80% today without waiting to pay $200,000 for an autonomous vehicle.”