What’s the role of Technology?
Technology too can play a part. Grab for example has been running a successful motorcycle taxi business in Thailand (albeit illegally). Grab drivers give all of their passengers a helmet to wear.
DRVR has proposed to the Thai government an alternative to mandatory GPS track aimed specifically at vulnerable road users. Rather than try to solve this problem through additional enforcement or using the stick we instead propose a solution which is based on rewarding people for driving safely.
DRVR will develop a smartphone application, which monitors driving behavior and rewards drivers and riders through a virtual currency for driving safely. The app will also have a critical feature which will address accidents and road deaths directly. The app will be able to detect accidents using the motion sensor on the device. The handset will identify if there has been an incident, it will then call the rider to check and see if they are ok. If there is no response the app will forward location and an accident notification to the nearest volunteers/roadside assistance.
This would be a crucial help for the riders as it will allow the accident to be detected and the location to be identified. In the early hours of the morning and in rural locations this is not always easy. Studies have shown that receiving medical attention within the first hour of an accident improves the chances of the victim surviving by more than 40%, which is very significant. We are potentially talking about 1,000s of lives being saved every year for a fraction of the cost of a GPS device based solution.
The insurance industry should be a critical part of providing this solution as they will be one of the main beneficiaries in reduced claims and payouts. We’ve proposed this idea to the Thai government and various government and non-government organizations such as the World Bank, Asian Development Bank and the UN. All of them expressed interest and felt that the project was worth looking at but unfortunately, a simple Proof of Concept was not funded.
Another idea which could have some merit would be the development of smart helmets which could be tethered to a handset.
Every time you take a taxi ride in Thailand you are being filmed. The images of passengers are kept and stored by the GPS company and are made available to the Department of Land Transport. At no point is the consent of passengers asked.
The right to privacy is a fundamental human right. This is addressed in Article 12 in the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights:
No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honor and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.
DRVR has taken a strong position against the offline monitoring of individual foreigners’ movements under the TM 30 requirements. On the same basis we also oppose mandatory GPS tracking of the entire population of Thailand. Aside from the fact that this is an enormously costly undertaking it simply would not lead to the desired outcome.
So what could be done?
Most of the issues, which result in high road deaths are behavioral issues such as not wearing helmets, speeding or drunk driving. The huge amounts of money being proposed for this program would be better spent on areas like:
- Driver education and training (implementing a practical driving/riding test would be a great start)
- Subsidies on helmets & high visibility closing
- With a tiny fraction of this money a “smart helmet/clothing” could be developed which would be able to detect impact and potentially notify roadside assistance volunteers — this could be paired up with the proposed DRVR app. You could even reward people for using the smart helmet
- Improvements made to lighting on rural roads
- Mapping of accident black spots
- Fixing the poor state of roads some of which are death traps for motorcyclists
- A realistic maintained budget for roads (if there is money being spent on this it’s clearly not being spent on roads — we spoke to the department of rural roads and they claimed they only had enough budget to have 7 vehicles across the whole country to inspect and monitor roads
- Give ownership and responsibility to one person/department
In 2015 the Thai government pledged to reduce road deaths by 50% by 2020. Since that proclamation was made the road deaths have declined by 7% in 4 years. With less than 12 months to achieve this target it seems an impossible goal. Significant progress is possible, but it would require a major commitment of effort. GPS tracking alone would see little to no difference but a combination of measures centered on education, safety and behavior could make a significant difference and could even increase the popularity of the government in areas like the North and North East which are hotbeds for the opposition as well as being the main centers for road deaths.
Who is DRVR
DRVR is a Data Analytics startup based in Bangkok. We connect vehicles to the Internet and help our customers (fleet operators) reduce the cost of operating a fleet of vehicles. We take the raw data we have captured and transform it into actionable knowledge.
We’ve helped our customers save millions in their fuel bills through real time analytics. DRVR has also developed a product for the insurance industry which monitors driving behavior and helps insurance companies offer their customers benefits based on their driving behavior (this is an opt in program). Contact us if you’re interested in finding out how we can help your business www.drvr.co