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Tech to make roads safer in New Zealand

A multinational car manufacturing company is working on a technology that could reduce some major causes of road injuries and deaths in New Zealand.

Driving while under the influence of drugs, distracted driving and speeding are some major influences on the national road toll. The company stated that they know that automotive safety technology has a significant role to play in reducing the rate of unnecessary deaths and injuries on roads each year.

The technology includes a driver monitoring system that uses sensors and cameras to identify when a driver is intoxicated or distracted as well as the capability to automatically limit the speed of a vehicle down as it approaches geofenced areas such as schools.

The company also stated that geofencing, technology that uses 5G cellular networks to automatically reduce the vehicle’s speed around schools and hospitals, is currently being explored by the developers.

According to data from the Ministry of Transport, excessive speeding, intoxication and distraction is a factor in hundreds of fatal and non-fatal fatal collisions each year. Additional research from Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency talking to more than 3000 respondents found that 21% of Kiwi drivers have had trouble staying awake on a long trip at least once in the past 12 months and a third say it is unlikely, they would pull over and rest if they felt drowsy.

The transport agency research found 6% of drivers believe these speed limits on New Zealand roads are too high and more than 4 in 10 of those surveyed think the risk of being caught speeding is small. Perhaps, new vehicle safety systems can also play a part when it comes to addressing the impact of excessive speed on the road toll.

The study also found that 16% of drivers use a hand-held phone while driving and almost a quarter has sent or read text messages while behind the wheel in the past 12 months. Also, 7% have checked or replied to their social media over this period. Interestingly, a few drivers admitted to driving while under the influence of drugs, with 7% citing prescription medications while 3% named other drugs like cannabis or methamphetamine.

Accordingly, the NZ Transport Agency is looking for new and creative hi-tech ideas to help save lives on the road. The agency is continuously looking for new ways to make roads safer and improve driver behaviour by hosting Hackathons – a sort of technology-driven brainstorming speed date – to bring together people with diverse skills, interests, and perspectives to solve problems. For them, it is about unleashing the potential of technology to reduce the road toll. The idea is to bring together new technology and digital innovation and some free-thinking and fresh perspectives, new ideas that can meaningfully impact road safety in New Zealand.

The Transport Agency will be asking participants to keep the ‘Safe System’ approach in mind as they build their solutions. The Safe System approach aims for a more forgiving road system that takes human fallibility and vulnerability into account. Under the Safe System, the agency and its counterparts can design the whole transport system to protect people from death and serious injury.

The agency is looking forward to these projects as they engage with everyday transport users who also just happen to be smart thinkers and technology innovators. There is no limit to what they might come up with in terms of improving the country’s road safety.

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