Fig. 1: Internal layout of the product
Fig. 1: Internal layout of the product

SafeDrive is a personal emergency management device that automatically detects crashes or other crisis situations and makes that crucial first call for help. It also helps victims in less severe, yet highly-troubling, cases like tire blowout, vehicle breakdown and medical emergencies that happen on the road.

By connecting to the on-board diagnostics through any ODB-II port of the car, this device automatically monitors car operation in order to predict failures before these happen, at the same time alerting users of best safe-driving practices. It was designed by a seven-member team led by Prasad Pillai, chief executive officer, and Dhanya CM, chief operating officer, Raksha SafeDrive.

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How does the whole system work
SafeDrive works by employing the most-modern technologies in a very small package. In-built impact sensors detect accidents and collect high-accuracy location information from the on-board global positioning system (GPS). Then, this information is processed and transmitted by the SafeDrive device to central office via cellular technologies.

The SafeDrive ecosystem comprises two parts. The first part is a mobile Internet-enabled device. With voice capability similar to a phone, the SafeDrive device can automatically detect accidents and transmit distress messages with GPS location information.

The second part is a backend support network that mainly consists of 24×7-support personnel who can receive distress messages and GPS location information transmitted by the SafeDrive device. Once the support centre receives the information, it is passed on to emergency providing agencies, the owner of the device is identified and emergency medical contacts are notified by SMSes and phone calls.

Hardware design
This device’s hardware consists of three key sub-systems: connectivity, positioning and crash sensing.

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Connectivity is achieved with a GPRS modem and associated circuitry. In India, cellular connectivity is the most ubiquitous and cost-effective networking option available. While it does not promise hundred per cent reach, it does provide the largest area of coverage that can be obtained compared to other technologies.

Positioning features like identifying the vehicle’s location are very crucial to this product. Location sensing is provided by an in-built GPS circuitry.

The next subsystem is what designers claim to be the most crucial of all—the crash sensing circuitry. The circuitry has accelerometers to measure impact and sudden change in acceleration (deceleration) of the vehicle. Their proprietary algorithm then processes the digital data collected through these accelerometers and decides if the vehicle was involved in an accident.

Apart from these, SafeDrive also has supporting circuitry for receiving voice calls, in-built battery charging for uninterrupted power, data-logging capabilities and high brightness light emitting diode (LED) for visual indication to the user.

What sets it apart
The key differentiation of SafeDrive is automatic crash detection and notification mechanism.

The other products currently available in the market are limited to providing location-tracking features. SafeDrive adds a new spin to this by adding an in-built crash sensing and notification mechanism. The team claims that crash sensing is the key technology that differentiates this product from the others.

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In conventional systems, false triggers for small impacts, including sudden braking and impacts from traversing large gutters on the road, affect the integrity of the solution in the long run.

If a system such as this is allowed to cause a false accident trigger, the ensuing situation can wreak havoc for the driver and entire support system. It will cause the solution to degrade and, consequently, affect its ability to be put to use in an effective manner. “We accomplish a stable, error-free and dependable accident detection system implemented through proprietary algorithms that contextually analyse and combine all the information obtained. This includes position, velocity, impact direction and duration, make and model of the vehicle, and so on,” explains Pillai.

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Current competition
In most developed and developing nations, including China, modern technologies are employed for fast detection and co-ordination of emergency rescue efforts.

In the USA, General Motors developed and commissioned OnStar system in their cars, that provides automatic accident detection and emergency SOS button, over 15 years ago. Currently, this system provides many services, including instant on-call support from a central office and dispatching emergency assistance to the accident location, among others. Over the past several years, most other car manufacturers have followed their lead and have provided similar safety systems for their cars sold in developed countries like the USA, the UK and others.

However, in India, we are yet to see such technologies being used and made available for public consumption. Lack of such modern technologies for emergency response is a major problem to be dealt with in order to reduce high causalities in India from road accidents.

SafeDrive was available for pre-order in November at a price of Rs. 6999 from the company’s website Raksha.me. Competing international products like Splitsecnd cost around Rs. 12,000 to buy, plus a monthly expense of Rs. 900 to subscribe to the emergency service, apart from routing service from a centre placed out of India.

Prasad adds, “We have taken two years, with the effort of a seven-member team, to bring this product into fruition.”

What we can expect in the future
Prasad and his team are working on patenting some features, which they cannot disclose at this time due to patent filing requirements. From my interaction with the team, I am sure that we can expect some interesting improvements in the feature set that comes with the next generation of this product.

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The author is a senior assistant editor at EFY

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