Launched Premium driver app as low cost ADAS backup, supplement

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You are driving when a pedestrian suddenly rushes down the street triggering warning beeps to alert you to take action. This alert does not come from a sophisticated Advanced Driver Assistance System (ADA
ADA
S) or from the console of an autonomous vehicle, but thanks to a free application for smartphone called Driver created by the startup Driver Technologies Inc.

On Tuesday, the company announced the official 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 takes the device from a simple dash cam to what Driver Technologies co-founder and CEO Rashid Galadanci , calls MADAS, portable advanced driver assistance system.

“As you drive, we monitor the road outside the vehicle for cars, pedestrians, motorcycles, buses, trucks, animals, things like that, understand lanes, understand the distance between you and these objects, then we monitor the driver for drowsiness and distraction, attention, playing with the phone, which way they are looking, then in real time on the edge, we alert you audibly and visually if we think you are at risk or if we think you are falling asleep,” Galadanci explained in an interview with Forbes.com.

All this is available on the free version of Driver. After a soft launch, the company on Tuesday announced the availability of a premium version that incurs a monthly fee of $4.99 for consumers and higher rates for fleets and commercial organizations.

This cost adds access to national roadside assistance through a partnership with the mobile app honkingfuel discounts with GasBuddy and DriverCloud where users can store videos of their rides 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 that might otherwise invest significant sums in management systems to monitor driver behavior and activities while providing links to secure roadside assistance.

“The commercial industry is not aligned with the products that exist. 99% of the market are mom and pop fleets or one or two vehicles,” Galadanci said. “The last thing they need is installing $700 a month hardware.”

It basically uses existing smartphone capabilities that “unfortunately are mostly used for things like Pokemon Go!” Galadanci said.

If many vehicles are already equipped with ADAS, why bother to install and use Driver, let alone pay for a premium version? Galadanci estimates that only 8% of U.S. drivers actually have access to ADAS, parking assist or lane detection technology in their cars or trucks and that self-driving vehicles widely available and affordable to the general population are a chimera.

“I realized with horror some time in 2016 that despite the marketing talk coming out of the (Silicon) valley, we weren’t going to have self-driving cars by the end of this year or the year after or the year after and they certainly weren’t going to work all over the United States let alone all over the world and what that would mean is we would have this continuation of the 1% of the 1% having access to this technology and no one else does,” Galadanci said as he shared his thoughts on starting the company.

He points out, however, that even in vehicles equipped with ADAS, Driver can be a complement and not a substitute.

Galadanci grew up in both New Hampshire and Nigeria, her father’s homeland. Although he had always been 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”, recalls Galadanci.

Thinking about the safety technology Volvo has made a name for as well as the brand’s high price tag, Galadanci lamented the fact that for many consumers that price was simply too high.

“That kind of technology may still be different and out of reach for a lot of people,” he explained.

Combining this reality with its lifelong interest in computer technology, Galadanci decided it needed a more accessible way for almost all motorists at all economic levels to be protected.

Thousands of drivers have found it hard to resist protection that costs next to nothing.

Since the company 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 worldwide,” Galadanci said. For competitive reasons, he declined to give exact user data.

Investors are betting Driver is on the fast track. In a round A of funding last year, Driver Technologies raised just over $10 million from companies including IA Capital, Liberty Mutual Strategic Ventures, State Auto Labs/Rev 1, The Social Entrepreneurs ‘Fund, C2Ventures and Kapor Capital.

Ultimately, 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 an expensive, tech-packed vehicle, ” everyone has a smartphone.

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