Former GE Europe CEO Farrar Named Chairman of DriveDiagnostics
TEL AVIV, ISRAEL – An Israeli company has developed technology to diagnose bad driving – and help companies do something about it. "Fleet drivers are twice as likely to be involved in accidents as normal drivers," says Hod Fleishman, CEO of Israeli start-up DriveDiagnostics which is shortly moving its headquarters to Jerusalem. DriveDiagnostics was set up in 2002 by Fleishman, an industrial designer whose previous job was with Israel's Ministry of Defense designing biological and chemical protection units, and his friend from his days at Jerusalem's Bezalel Academy of Art and Design, Ofer Raz, a data mining expert who has set up several companies of his own. The company has recently been boosted by the appointment as company chairman of Daniel Farrar, former CEO of GE Capital Fleet, who managed a 500,000-car fleet in 27 countries, and Tomer Toledo, a member of MIT's Intelligent Transport Systems department as DriveDiagnostics' chief scientist. Toledo, who divides his time between the U.S. and Israel, is using the SafetyCenter system in conjunction with Or Yarok (Green Light), an Israeli association for safer driving, to research the learning curve of new drivers. DriveDiagnostics is about to begin a pilot project with a large UK company, and will begin sales to fleet companies there during the first quarter of next year. The company is in discussions to start pilot projects in the U.S. with a view to beginning sales there in mid-2005. Working with insurance companies is next on DriveDiagnostics' list: SafetyCenter would enable them to offer a reduction to their clients for good driving. This fits in with the new pay-as-you-drive insurance concept, whereby premiums are calculated monthly rather than yearly. The system has already been introduced in several U.S. states and in the UK and the Netherlands. Our roads could soon be much safer places. DriveDiagnostics' offers SafetyCenter, a small stand-alone black-box device which sits on the car's dashboard unconnected to any of the car's systems, avoiding the need for any kind of installation or integration. SafetyCenter's sensors monitor every move the vehicle makes by measuring the forces on the car. The system also has a GPS location device, which is used to measure the speed at which the car is being driven, rather than connecting up to the car's own speedometer. Different combinations of forces correspond to different maneuvers, such as braking sharply, swerving round a corner, overtaking, and attempting to change lanes but failing. SafetyCenter's software examines every move and identifies it as one of a hundred or so different maneuvers in its database. A journey's worth of maneuvers adds up to a profile of the driver. "A good driver executes around 20 maneuvers in 10 hours," says Fleishman. "A bad driver can make up to 30 aggressive or dangerous maneuvers in 30 minutes." The software produces a report of the driving behavior listing each maneuver, and also displays a set of journeys graphically, coloring each maneuver on the graph green, yellow, or red corresponding to safe, fairly dangerous and dangerous driving. A quick look at a driver's graph gives an instant impression of what kind of driver this is. The system also takes into account the time of day the driving took place to see if that has an effect on bad driving, and, in conjunction with information provided by the driver, can identify which member of the family was driving the car at the time. The data collected is sent to a server via a cellular modem, and the fleet manager or the person in the company in charge of monitoring drivers' behavior accesses the drivers' profiles on the Web or on an in-house company server. He or she can analyze one driver's behavior over time, or compare all the company's employees. SafetyCenter is also developing a feature that will give the company's chief financial officer a picture of how the company vehicles were driven over a month and how much the bad driving over that period could cost. However, cost is not the only consideration. Several years ago, the UK passed legislation, forcing a company to be proactive in terms of security and safety; other countries are sure to follow suit. DriveDiagnostics is currently running a three-month paid pilot project with one of Israel's largest high-tech companies. A certain number of cars have a SafetyCenter unit, and their drivers are being monitored for a month. After that, DriveDiagnostics will hold a half-day seminar with the drivers: "We show them what it does and then we sit down with the aggressive drivers and set them targets for the next two months. The fleet manager will make sure the targets are met," says Fleishman.