Almost all of us have a smartphone on our dashboard, so why not use it to record all the dangerous drivers out there?
Even the most wanton drivers will not dare to drive irresponsibly and endanger lives when they are near a police car. Since there are only a limited number of these vehicles, however, we often see reckless drivers who ignore the traffic rules, thereby jeopardizing not only themselves, but everyone else.
A new Israeli venture will enable anyone in the country to photograph the violation, causing the driver to be sentenced and punished — and perhaps, deterring dangerous drivers.
The video is sent with a voice order
The National Road Safety Authority, together with the Israel Police Traffic Department and the Nativ Batuach (Safe Lane) nonprofit organization, has launched a new venture, called “Guardians of the Road – Social Change on the Roads.” Through technological means, the purpose of the venture is to combat road hooliganism and create deterrence.
It works like this: The venture’s volunteers install an app developed especially for the venture with the participation of information security experts and traffic accident research specialists from the Technion. Users operate the app when they are driving, and it continuously photographs the road and the vehicles visible through the front windshield. When the user sees a traffic violation, they give a voice order explaining the substance of the event that they just witnessed. Then, the system automatically and securely delivers the report to the special selection and control center set up in the National Road Safety Authority.
Every documentary report received is carefully checked to see whether the moving violation and the particulars of the vehicle involved are clearly visible. If the video clip received really does document a serious and life-threatening violation, it is securely passed to Israel Police for further handling, including issuing a ticket to the perpetrator or putting them on trial.
Hundreds of reports have already been sent to the police
In the course of the pilot conducted last year, volunteers recorded approximately 7,500 moving violations, hundreds of which were sent to the police for handling. Most of these ended in tickets for the perpetrators. Before you start looking for the link to download the app, however, note that in order to use the app, you have to go through a preliminary selection.
Speaking with Geektime, National Road Safety Authority spokesperson Moriya Malka said that the authority first checks whether the candidate had any serious traffic violations in the past five years. The candidate’s place of residence is then verified to maintain a geographically balanced deployment in Israel, as well as their age, because only users over 30 are accepted. According to Malka, from the time the project was launched about a week ago until now, over 5,500 people have already registered to join the project, and more volunteers will be recruited in the coming days.
Geektime: Do you preserve the anonymity of the user who photographed the violation?
Malka: “Yes, the app leaves the volunteers anonymous. The perpetrators do not know who photographed them. Only in the event of a complicated legal proceeding that includes an appeal is there a possibility that the volunteer’s particulars would be revealed. Experience proves that for now, despite many violations, including some that went to court, this did not actually happen.”
Geektime: What about dashboard cameras? Many drivers in Israel use such cameras. Have you also considered using a video clip that they filmed?
Malka: “We carefully select each volunteer added to the venture. As for your question, not every person with a dashboard camera can take photographs and send them to the authority. Doing that would create legal and information security problems.”
Geektime: It sounds terrific, and I want to volunteer. How do I do it?
Malka: “Right now, we’re starting our first round of recruiting from those who have already registered, so we don’t need more volunteers. Anyone who wants to join in the future, however, can register now on the National Road Safety Authority website.”
There is already a similar private company in Israel
The new effort comes on top of a similar, existing venture by Israeli company Nexar. The technology developed by Nexar also turns the user’s smartphone into a kind of dashboard camera, but in addition to its reports, it also uses a complicated computer vision algorithm to analyze the video clip, map the hazardous road behavior, and record the license plates of the cars involved. Nevertheless, the big difference is that, at least for now, the company’s ecosystem is closed, without the interface points with the police present in the Guardians of the Road venture.