Truck drivers have a deep-seated problem with contentions regarding on-road traffic violations, which usually end up being a costly affair. The extent of the issue can be felt by looking at the large commercial fleet insurers like Zurich Insurance and AIG that are exiting the scene due to massive unsustainable payouts related to traffic incidents.
NetraDyne, a company based out of San Diego is providing a solution that helps fleet companies monitor their driver behavior with the goal of improving safety on roads. The startup uses artificial intelligence and computer vision to track drivers through intelligent and situationally-aware cameras on deck.
“We want to be the leader in driver behavior monitoring,” says Sandeep Pandya, president of NetraDyne. “There have been a few companies that have worked in the domain, but what we saw was a limitation of the technology used. They were relying on legacy systems and one-dimensional technology that didn’t give a complete view of the driver. We are changing that with computer vision.”
Artificial intelligence is clearly a game-changer with regard to understanding situations and on-road complexities. “Take a traffic light violation for example. An inertial telematic system can’t detect whether a driver has run a red light or not. If the driver is clever and does not hit the brakes while going through the red light, those legacy systems simply won’t detect it,” explains Pandya.
“Even the video analytics guys require an initial trigger for their camera systems to activate. But with a computer vision system powered by deep learning and AI, we can actually see the traffic light and tell you whether it was yellow or red. We can also detect where the driver was exactly when the light changed – if he was at the intersection or well before. We can also spot pedestrians nearby.”
NetraDyne’s team brings seasoned technology professionals together, with a majority of them coming in with decades of experience at Qualcomm. “We at the management board have inherited a strong technology and fleet DNA from Qualcomm,” adds Pandya. “We came together to solve the issues in the driver-related problem space by applying the most advanced technology in the market that Qualcomm is known for.”
Pandya believes it is easier to sell the idea of NetraDyne to fleet owners now than it would have been a decade before. In the freight industry today, there exists a macro pressure on fleets to operate more safely since they stand to lose a lot if they are caught up with damage claims. This is more so with larger companies having multiple branches, since they also face the additional burden of the need to protect their brand from being besmirched.
Having an onboard camera could help exonerate drivers in the event of something happening. “Studies show that in 80% of the time that a fleet vehicle is involved in an accident with a passenger vehicle, it is usually not the fleet driver’s fault,” notes Pandya. “So having visual evidence to support this would be positive for the driver. Fleets appreciate that now.”
NetraDyne also makes sure that the privacy and needs of the fleet drivers are taken into account. The startup has developed a custom IP that allows the cameras to be turned on and off, protecting the fleet when the driver is on the road, but turns off when the driver is looking for privacy. Pandya asserts that this feature makes his company unique.
One of the situations that surprised NetraDyne in the video analytics space was how underpenetrated the freight market was with onboard camera systems.
“Only a few percentage of companies had already adopted some form of camera technology on their fleets,” says Pandya. “So even if we get competition, there seems to be a lot of opportunities for everyone to succeed in the space. We hope to stay in front by outperforming competitors and by simply staying on the cutting edge of technology.”
To be ahead in the race, NetraDyne takes its customer feedback very seriously. The startup relies heavily on its learnings from the crowdsourced driver behavior monitoring data and provides the insights generated, back to its fleet partners. “They really value hearing about their drivers,” notes Pandya. “Our conclusions help them to benchmark their drivers against other drivers in the industry.”
Apart from deploying its technology in North America, NetraDyne has also ventured into Asia to train its AI system for diversity and to appreciate different driving patterns and road environments. The company has gained a lot of attention from major brands in the commercial and fleet industry and plans to scale up in the U.S. and Canada in the near future.
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