David Henderson, DRVR: “the main risk is the person behind the wheel”
Our guest today believes that advancements in technology can revolutionize road safety and make our journeys safer than ever before.
These days, there are many dangers out there, both online and in the real world. While digital tools such as VPNs or antivirus are popular choices for online safety, not many individuals or organizations are aware of new technologies that can protect actual lives.
One of the ways to do that is by predicting dangers on the road with the help of technology such as artificial intelligence. To find out more, our team sat down with David Henderson, CEO and Co-Founder of DRVR – a smartphone telematics and fleet intelligence platform that can help insurers and fleet operators reduce costs, improve safety and acquire new customers.
Let’s go back to the very beginning of DRVR. What has the journey been like over the years?
DRVR has been around for just over 6 years. We were originally founded in Australia by people working at a company called Intelematics Australia. We felt we could do better than what they were doing and use the technology to save lives in the countries with the most need (middle-income countries like Thailand).
The company’s journey has really been one of grit and determination by the founders. We built the company up from nothing, then rebuilt everything again two times. In the tech world, this is called a pivot.
We have learned a lot in our journey and struggled with getting product market fit for an enterprise SaaS product in the ASEAN markets. We have not established that, but it took a long time and a lot of effort.
Can you introduce us to what you do? What types of technology do you use to monitor driving behavior?
Almost everyone has a sophisticated smartphone. These phones are powerful computers with dozens of different sensors. We have a small piece of software that sits on the phone and collects data from these sensors.
We have collected a huge amount of data over the years that allows us to understand what is happening. For example, if we detect a huge spike in the pressure sensor and the barometer on the phone this almost always means that an airbag has been deployed.
What myths and misconceptions surrounding driving do you notice most often?
Driving can be very dangerous, but most of the time, for most people, it’s not. As a driver, you can influence the risk. We often find that drivers have lucky charms and icons to “protect” themselves from the risk of accidents. The reality is that the main risk is the person behind the wheel. Be alert, always be on the lookout and expect the unexpected.
Have the recent global events altered your field of work in any way? Were there any new challenges you had to adapt to?
Great question. There are several global trends that are having a profound impact on us and the insurance industry in general. First, I would like to address Autonomous vehicles. A few years ago, this was all the rage and front-page news, the hype has died off somewhat as the challenges for full autonomy have been substantial. Over time we have seen the adoption of AI/ML follow a similar course – initial hype over various calendar booking systems, then the valley of death for them, and now ChatGPT showing that the tech has matured. AV will follow a similar model. In a few years' time, I expect to see this come back into vogue.
What are your thoughts on the connected car concept? Do you think this technology is going to enhance safety or pose more security risks?
The connected car is no longer a concept but a reality. 91% of cars sold in the USA are connected vehicles. This enables a whole ecosystem of different apps, software, and solutions. Many of the security issues identified back in the early 2000s have been overcome and resolved. The technology is very mature and no longer something new.
In this age of ever-evolving technology, what do you think are the key security practices both businesses and individuals should adopt?
I don’t think there is such a thing as a best practice. You need to be continually adapting to new threats. Technology evolves quickly. For instance, 12 months ago, ChatGPT did not exist, now, it has more than 100m users globally. With this new technology, there also come some potential threats.
What other new innovations and technologies do you hope to see widely used in the near future?
New technology is constantly coming out, but most of it is incremental enhancements of what came before. We haven’t really seen any major breakthrough tech for a few years. I think the world seems to be hurtling toward WW3 at a fantastic pace. That war will be more destructive than anything we have seen in the past, but it will also be the harbinger of great change and new technology advancements.
Autonomous vehicles are already playing a major role in warfare. That technology will become cheaper and a lot better.
Since the automotive industry is your main field of focus, how do you think this sector is going to evolve in the next few years?
There are a lot of technologies that are becoming more and more synergistic. For example, the convergence between AI, 5G, and Robotics will all enable the truly autonomous vehicle. This will allow new business models and new ways of thinking about transportation. Owning a car, the planning of cities, journeys, and daily life will change profoundly.
Would you like to share what’s next for DRVR?
We’re focusing on our mission which is to reduce road accidents and save lives. This year we plan to make very large investments in improving our tech. A key part of that will be a heavy focus on AI & ML. We will deeply embed that into the way that we work to allow our customers to automate the routine and focus on the extraordinary.
Also, this year we will be focusing on expanding our product offering into Japan and growing our partnership sales.
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