Dashcam App Looks to Grade Every Driver Out There, Warn When Bad Ones Are Around

Nexar UI 1 photo
Photo: Nexar
Traffic is just like the Internet: a lot of people hide behind the relative anonymity conferred by the vehicle they're driving, knowing there's a very little chance that the person they wronged will remember them the next time they meet.
Yes, cars do have license plates for identification, but unless you snap a shot of the man's car, print it, and stick it to the windshield or the sun visor, they're not going to do you any good in spotting drivers that have a tendency to misbehave.

Using a dashcam is a form of protection, but even though it allows you to settle matters later after an incident in case there's any need for that, it does nothing in the sense of prevention. That's because it's a passive system, something that the US-Israeli startup called Nexar wants to change.

The company wants to build "an air traffic control system" for driving, only unlike the real one, this is going to be fully automated. To do that, Nexar has developed an app that turns smartphones into a network of smart dashcams continuously scanning the roads for bad drivers.

The app has been in use for nearly one year and has managed to record and analyze over five million miles of driving. The Nexar app is restricted to the cities of San Francisco, New York, and Tel Aviv at the moment, but even so it managed to build profiles for over seven million cars so far.

The system uses the phone's camera, AI algorithms, and machine vision to identify the license plates of the cars around and trace their movements while also factoring in other traffic conditions such as road signs or street lights. “There aren’t a lot of legal impediments in the United States to what Nexar is doing, nor should there be.” Eran Shir, Nexar’s co-founder, tells Spectrum IEEE. “If you’re driving next to me and you’re a dangerous driver, I want to know about it so I can be prepared.

For now, the data is only stored in Nexar's database, but later this year a new feature will be introduced that will warn the driver if any of his nearby fellow drivers have been flagged as potentially dangerous. But the applications of this technology go beyond informing others of the bad drivers around. Imagine six months from now, you download the Nexar app and, much to your surprise, you find out you've already been profiled and... let's just say it's not what you would have expected.

That could be a wake-up call, so Nexar's initiative would suddenly gain an educational dimension where bad drivers start to analyze their habits and maybe make some changes. Alternatively, a somebody using the Nexar app could also receive an alert every time they do something that would count toward their bad driver reputation.

Ten more cities will be added to the list over the next year, so if everything goes well, Nexar will soon go global. We don't know how the system would work during nighttime, for example, or heavy rain or snow, but that doesn't take away from the very important benefits the widespread usage of this system would bring. Not to mention it doesn't require any hardware purchase, apart from a phone holder.

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About the author: Vlad Mitrache
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"Boy meets car, boy loves car, boy gets journalism degree and starts job writing and editing at a car magazine" - 5/5. (Vlad Mitrache if he was a movie)
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