Serious road accidents occur all too often: according to the World Health Organisation, some 1.25 million people die each year as a result of road traffic injuries. To help reduce the risks, the driver assistant-plus monitoring system developed by Buffalo, New York-based Driver Watchdog, which was highlighted at last year's South by Southwest interactive festival, collects a wide range of data on the person at the wheel in an effort to identify any possible distractions and potential dangers so as to prevent accidents happening. This kind of information can also be very useful to both self-driving vehicle manufacturers and insurance companies. Now a young German company called Bleenco, which was founded in 2017 and is targeting both these industries, has just been selected for the InsurTech programme run by the Plug & Play accelerator in its home town of Munich. One of the solutions invented by Bleenco is an Artificial Intelligence software package called Pitts, which is able to detect and analyse both driver behaviour and the external weather conditions. Using photos, sound recordings and physiological sensors, the Bleenco system, which can potentially be embedded in a connected vehicle, will be able to tell at a given moment whether the driver is, for instance, irritated or distracted, judging from his/her driving behaviour or line of vision. Based on these observations, the on-board system will then move into action, switching the vehicle to automatic pilot mode if it appears that the person at the wheel is temporarily not in a fit state to drive. The aim is also that this ‘smart’ vehicle system will be able to spot pedestrians, heavy trucks or other potential hazards in the vicinity, judge when the road is likely to be slippery, and adjust vehicle speed accordingly so as to improve general safety. Meanwhile all this data could also help insurers to work out what really happened should a collision occur. Moreover, it seems inevitable that the advent of new modes of transport, such as autonomous vehicles, will lead to the development of new insurance products. In fact UK insurance broker Adrian Flux began some time ago to look into ways and means of insuring for cases where the driver assistant fails to take proper control of the car or where hackers take over a connected vehicle. US-based InsurTech firm Sure has also already included driverless car-related cover in its mobile app-based on-demand insurance service. However, this cover offer is aimed solely at passengers riding in autonomous vehicles, enabling them to take out insurance on the basis of a single journey.
By Sophia Qadiri