REDWOOD SHORES, Calif. – Technology originally created to control teen drivers may have found a home in the trucking industry.
GreenRoad inventor Ofer Raz was driving home from work one night and noticed some teenagers who were driving very aggressively and dangerously. He approached this problem with his friend Hod Fleishman. The technologically astute pair subsequently designed a safety monitoring device which would monitor driving maneuvers of all types, whether it was driving too fast, following too close, handling corners aggressively, making inappropriate lane changes or heavy braking.
The driving maneuver is recorded by a tiny monitoring device, which displays the safety level of a particular driving action, with lights of green (safe), yellow (moderately aggressively) and red (severe).
The small device sits on the side of the dash, and provides immediate feedback to the driver for each maneuver, which can be used independently by the driver or shared with fleet management. Drivers are offered additional safety reinforcement tools through a link to the company’s Web site.
That information is collected wirelessly, and the driver can later be alerted by e-mail or with more detailed reports, through the company Web site. GreenRoad is considered a “coaching tool” and designed to improve driver behaviour, according to Pete Allen, the vice-president of North American sales for GreenRoad.
“They designed the initial concept of the product to measure every working driving behaviour that a driver can make, with any type of vehicle, and do it in a way that you could provide positive feedback to the driver immediately, and give them reinforcement tools to reinforce how they drive.”
After the pair built the product from their design headquarters in Israel, they put the new technology into trials with the initial intent of focusing on teenage drivers, a strategy that eventually expanded to include truck fleets.
Formerly known as Drive Diagnostics, the company was launched globally about a year ago, with an office in the U. K., an office near San Francisco, and a subsequent name change. GreenRoad Technology is now directing the bulk of its marketing efforts towards the commercial fleet industry.
Allen states that North American fleets that are using the product have been extremely positive about the monitor.
“There hasn’t been a company that has tried our product and decided not to continue forward,” he says. “They all love the product. It does exactly what we say it does.”
Arctic Glacier, which has a head office in Winnipeg and a private fleet of between 800 to 1,000 vehicles that deliver from 90 facilities across Canada and the US, is more than pleased with the results.
The manager of health and safety says the company has had a successful pilot project with GreenRoad since May of this year, with 100 trucks based in the US connected to the technology. Walter Kruk adds that Arctic Glacier has allowed the system to work independently with the drivers, without corporate interference.
“We don’t really interact with our drivers at this point in time for the trial purpose, because we’ve backed off and said this isn’t going to be a big brother approach,” Kruk says.
“We’ve let the drivers basically handle it themselves. We’ve seen some pretty amazing results just doing that. We have more than cut our risky driving behaviours by 50%, and this is just within the trial period, from when we initially put the equipment in the truck until today.”
More specifically, here’s how the technology works: Green- Road puts an accelerometer (or sensor) in the vehicle, which measures G-forces on an X andY axis, essentially measuring forces front, back, and side-to-side of the vehicle and everything in between.
What makes GreenRoad unique is an ability to accurately identify risky maneuvers as the incidents occur, according to Allen. Using proprietary algorithms, the software determines what type of maneuver was made.
Feedback is then sent to the driver via the in-vehicle device on the dashboard, and later via e-mail, and through GreenRoad’s Web reporting.
“It can tell you if you’ve had an aggressive lane change, for example, and if it was to the left, or to the right,” says Allen. “It can tell you at what speed you were going, and what time that happened.”
The idea behind GreenRoad’s technical and philosophical approach to preventing accidents, is that if information about risky behaviour is provided to a potentially over-confident driver, the end result would be a personal adjustment of driving habits. Also, the driver or fleet would not only operate the vehicle safer, but the vehicle would also achieve greater better fuel economy.
“The fuel is intuitive,” says Allen. “If you drive the vehicle properly you automatically get better fuel economy.”
In better understanding how GreenRoad is effective, Allen suggests examining human behaviour. If 10 people were asked if they were a good driver, he says that eight or nine of those questioned would respond that they were, “because everybody thinks everybody else is a bad driver.”
But, if there was a tool that told a driver how good he or she actually was, or what particular areas the driver had problems with, such as corner handling, braking, lane handling and acceleration, there might be an adjustment of that behaviour.
“If you knew what your problem area was, and it was constantly reinforced to you while you were driving, and through e-mails, and different (wireless) means, if you wanted change, you would change your behaviour,” he reasons.
The green, yellow and red lights on the small monitor that sits on the dash are considered no more intrusive than a turn signal. All that information is captured by software and sent to the GreenRoad safety centre Web site, where the driver and fleet manager can review that data.
Fleet managers can create reports by driver, fleet, trip, department, maneuver, etc. to identify trends over time. GreenRoad scores drivers on each action, and offers a final score for all maneuvers during a particular driving period.
“Eighty per cent of fleet drivers change their behaviour by themselves. So, there’s very little management involved. And then the other 20% is what the management focuses on, to reduce the risk even further.”
The GreenRoad system doesn’t monitor where the operators drive, nor does it track them or invade their privacy by putting a video camera in the driver’s face, Allen says. “So once drivers understand what it does, they’re actually very receptive to it.”
Allen is reluctant to divulge how many companies have endorsed GreenRoad’s product, but he does indicate that globally it has 2,500 units installed with “several very large well-known companies.”
While GreenRoad has not aggressively pursued the Canadian market, according to Allen, it is waiting for a substantial installation to make the effort worthwhile. For more info, visit www.greenroad.com.