A concept to improve the driving skills of 15 to 19 year olds has won the NZ Transport Agency’s first ever Hackathon.
The team proposed creating an app to incentivise safe driving behaviour in teenagers on restricted licences. The team called “Licence Me” worked through the weekend, competing with 11 other groups in Auckland to develop and pitch their ideas for making New Zealand roads safer.
NZ Transport Agency Director of Safety and Environment Harry Wilson led the panel of judges and said they were looking for the concept that would make the biggest difference; was easy to do; and was technically feasible.
Licence Me tackled the problem of young drivers on restricted licences. In their pitch to judges, Licence Me said restricted drivers represent 4.6% of the driving population but were involved in 14% of fatal and serious injury crashes.
Licence Me estimated their concept could save 55 young lives a year by increasing the time they spent behind the wheel with feedback from experienced drivers so they learnt good habits early. The team proposed developing an app to track driver progress that focussed on controlling speed, braking, accelerating and cornering. The incentive for young drivers would be to learn good driving skills and reduce their time on a restricted licence from 18 to 12 months.
The Licence Me team had 10 members – 7 from a Hamilton firm who came to the Hackathon to “have some fun on a team-building exercise”, said group leader Jourdan Templeton, the Chief Technical Officer of Aware Group, a company that uses data and machine learning to predict the rate of student drop-outs from university courses.
They met a road safety engineer from Christchurch and two Auckland students at the Hackathon to create their winning team.
“We have the capability to build the app we proposed,” said Mr Templeton.
Mr Wilson said the theme of the Hackathon, “Save One More Life,” was especially appropriate on a day when two teenagers died in a road crash at Amberley.
“That news really reinforced what we are doing here and why we’re doing it,” he said.
“I’ve been moved by the passion, the energy, the creativity and the ideas of the teams over the weekend. I thank all 120 participants for giving up their weekend to come here and represent all of New Zealand in a bid to find new hi-tech ways of making our roads safer for everyone,” Mr Wilson said.
The Transport Agency will work with the Licence Me team to develop their concept into a marketable proposition.
Mr Wilson said the Transport Agency would talk to other teams about developing their concepts.
Second place went to the “Safe Sense” team for a concept that involved placing laser sensors and cameras at corners to warn drivers of vehicles crossing the centreline. Safe Sense told the judges that 50% of crashes occur on corners.
Third place went to the “Crash Test Dummies” team for a phone app concept that would show drivers in real time how fast they were travelling on a particular road and warn them to slow down if they were going faster than the average speed of other road users.
The Transport Agency’s Director of Connected Journeys, Martin McMullan, thanked major sponsors, Datacom, Microsoft, Amazon Web Services, IBM, Google Cloud, Consegna Cloud and Uber for helping make the event happen.
The Transport Agency plans another Hackathon in September.