India is a country with 1.3 Bn population. Recently, Union Minister for Road Transport Nitin Gadkari has sought the support of corporates to fulfil India’s commitment to reduce fatal road accidents by 50% by the end of 2020 as the country is a signatory to the UN Decade of Action. However, India recorded 1,46,377 deaths in road accidents in 2017 alone.
According to the World Health Organisation: speeding, driving while intoxicated or under the influence of psychoactive substances, non-compliance or absence of safety provisions, use of mobile phones, dangerous road infrastructure and failure to comply with the Highway Traffic Act have been some of the factors which lead to road accidents.
However, these suggestions are on the issues which can be controlled or avoided by the drivers themselves with due diligence. But, at the time when cell phones are the essential survival kit, the safety and attention on the road have been widely avoided.
What if, as soon as an accident is about to happen, the driver is prompted to take control the vehicle or the car gets stopped to avoid collision?
This might appear unimaginable to you, but for young engineering graduates: Arbaz Reza, Vrunda Nimje and Aditya Unde this is a problem they want to solve with their venture Accelo. The trio has already put on stage their first Internet of Things product – M.A.M.A Drive (Module for Accident Management and Assistance) in the accident prevention space. The startup has envisioned to disrupt the automobile sector with its driver assistive savvy technology.
Arbaz shared, “In the past, all the founders have been through some severe accidents which have been responsible for shaping their lives. Even though this connection brought us together, what made us click was Vrunda’s accident in which people didn’t come up to help and that’s when we all thought that this is a product which is required in India.”
Therefore, beyond the safety precautions and advice given, Accelo took the charge of the case and decided to build a solution for accident circumvention. With its product, the startup is also trying to do automatic response mapping, which means that in case there’s a crash, insurance company and medical emergency company gets notified.
So, the major aim of the product is to avoid the collision, and in case there’s an accident, there would be an automated claim for reimbursement.
Lessons From Three Passionate Drivers
Talking to Inc42, Arbaz shared that the idea for Accelo was conceived in the year 2015 during their engineering days and the product development was completed by early 2018.
He shared that the founders have been passionate drivers and out of curiosity had looked at the data about the road accidents and found it shocking to know that a person dies every four minutes due to road accident and 80% of the collisions are caused by human error.
The trio also found that one of the major reasons for deaths was that the bystanders were hesitant to offer help to the victims considering the legal hassles involved in a road accident in India and the time is taken by the Emergency Response team to reach the location considering the information provided by the bystanders that led to the prediction of an inaccurate location of the accident.
This leads to the initial crucial time of about 20 minutes (as informed by various doctors) being wasted and therefore, the loss of time led to the death of victims.
It was then that the team started developing a product that was focussed on post-crash help and also included the Pre-Collision Alert through computer vision and aided machine learning about the behaviour of the vehicle, driver and other vehicles in the range of about 75 metres.
Its revenue streams range from the sale of products to cater to the cab aggregators, fleet operators, standalone car owners and insurance companies.
At the time, the founders raised an initial investment of $12,076 (INR 8 Lakh). Most of it was utilised for research and development, development of prototype and finalising the product design.
The startup is in process of receiving a grant from the Department of Science and Technology.
So, How Does Accelo Prevent Road Accidents?
In layman terms, Accelo mounts its M.A.M.A Dashcam model on the top of the car, which tracks the road and its surroundings. In case of an emergency, the camera mounted on the top gives an audio alert to the driver, if the driver doesn’t take action, then the hardware M.A.M.A product takes control of the car to avoid the collision.
The startup uses AI for image-based processing and generating an image-based alert. It plans to use blockchain technology, to make decentralised data for images they capture and thus, enhance data security.
For the autonomous street management, Arbaz shared, “The basis of any assistive driving product is having a lane management system. Our system has the ability to work even in lanes that do not have the marking of the lanes and hence, its adaptable to any condition that can occur on Indian roads.”
Following the appreciation by Nitin Gadkari, the minister directed Automotive Research Association of India (ARAI), the apex body for testing and certifying types of vehicles and engines used for both automotive and non-automotive applications to certify Accelo’s product.
The startup will also get the product tested by AVL Austria, which is the world leader for testing of automotive products and also certifies Tesla. The startup has also sent their devices for testing from the European certification through EURO NCAP test, which is the European New Car Assessment Programme to make cars safer.
With a small team of seven based in Mumbai, Accelo’s software backend is completely ready and is fully functional while the initial hardware prototype is ready and is being deployed and tested at various places. Priced at $181.14 (INR 12,000), the hardware product also has a recurring charge of $22.64 (INR 1,500) annually.
Accelo has deployed its hardware product in the local transport buses under Nagpur Municipal Corporation.
It has already deployed its first 20 products with Somaiya College Vidyavihar and will soon deploy 10 more product pieces to Nagpur Municipal Corporation.
Accelo has also signed initial agreements with companies like Axisvation and is discussing data collaborations in terms of driver analytics based insurance premiums.
Arbaz shared, “We are having initial talks for integration of our technology with the existing system that they have for insurance clearance. After we do a pilot with them, we will be taking it ahead and doing integration with insurance companies. Axisvation customers are insurance companies where they help in making insurance claims redressal easier and faster.”
Other Startups In The Accident Prevention And Cure Space
Despite more focus on road safety campaigns, there are a few startups working towards avoiding the accident from the drivers’ end.
In the segment, we have Thane-based Accident Defense System founded by Manish Rao in March 2016. Following a brutal accident which left him partially paralyzed, Rao started ADS, which uses the camera on a user’s mobile device to monitor the road ahead uses ‘Vehicle Distance Monitoring’ to measure the distance from the vehicle ahead and ‘Collision Prevention Warning’ to alert users if it detects a collision is likely to occur.”
Next, we have, Bengaluru-based BlinkEye Labs, which is a consumer electronics company, developing an automotive IoT safety device for cars, buses and trucks that helps preventing accidents caused by drivers’ distraction. Launched in 2017, the IoT solution also helps fleet managers with driving analytics, emergency roadside assistance and vehicle maintenance.
However, amid such players, the USP for Accelo remains to be its response in the case of a crash and also alliance with insurance companies. It also provides autonomous street management for lanes without proper markings on road.
Despite a positive looking front, one of the major issue related with the dashcam model of M.A.M.A product is that the privacy of an individual can be hampered with the continued survey through the camera. In India, many areas have strict prohibitions on videography/photography, amid this, there can also be issues with continuous street mapping.
At the time when the world is grappling with Facebook-Cambridge Analytica fiasco, and India is waking up to data breaches through unique identity card – Aadhaar, we raised our concerns to Accelo.
Arbaz explained, “We believed that if someone is trusting us by installing the camera, then his personal privacy shouldn’t be hampered. So, we don’t store all the information the camera records, but take bits and pieces to save in our database. Therefore, we don’t take images of all the cars on the road etc, we take analytical data out of it like the number of cars on the road, car number, etc.”
In India, every year around 3.5 Mn vehicles roll out in the market. Accelo believes that in the next five years, it would cater to at least 2% of this market. Further, there is a huge addressable market about $17 Bn at present which is expected to reach $55 Bn by 2022 and is growing by about 20% Y-o-Y for the next seven years which can be catered by multiple players in the segment.
As the company awaits the regulatory approvals, it plans to deploy 1,000+ units in the next six months and has also started the initial procedures for its crowdfunding campaign.