New Tech To Keep Young Drivers From Falling Asleep At The Wheel

A new concept involving rechargeable L and P plates to prevent young drivers falling asleep at the wheel has earned a young Melbourne and Sydney creative duo $75,000 in a Transport Accident Commission crowd-sourcing competition.

Lauren Joyce and Frank Curcio won the TAC’s world-first Pause the Road Toll ideas hackathon, edging out a field of 50 fellow digital innovators to win $5000 in prize money and $70,000 to fund the development of the idea, titled ‘power your plates’.

The TAC partnered with Pause Fest –- Australia’s biggest digital innovation festival – to run the one-day hackathon, pitting entrepreneurs, creative directors and technology experts against each other to come up with a digital solution to a specific road safety issue.

Participants were given four hours to come up with an innovative response to the question: How can we use smart phones to get young drivers to avoid drowsy driving? They then pitched their ideas to a panel of expert judges.

Twenty five year-old Frank, a brand manager from Melbourne and 33-year-old Lauren, a creative strategist from Sydney, impressed the judges with their tech savvy entry.

Their idea involved developing a digital interface program whereby an iBeacon would be installed in all L and P plates to talk to the driver’s smart phone and alert them when they need to pull over and rest. The plates would also be powered by LED lights and emit a glow as the driver was becoming drowsy, based on the number of hours sleep the driver recorded on their smart phone application. “Our idea is about transforming regular L and P plated into rechargeable plates based on the number of hours sleep the driver has,” Mr Curcio said.

TAC chief executive officer Janet Dore congratulated them on the win, describing the concept as a fresh and innovative way to engage young drivers and reduce the impact of drowsy driving, estimated to be a factor in 16 to 20 per cent of all road crashes.

“It’s vital that we continue to push the boundaries of innovation and think outside the square if we are to achieve our vision of zero deaths and serious injuries on Victorian roads,” Ms Dore said. “We know how important it is to embrace technology in a new and creative way in order to reach out to young drivers and that is exactly what Frank and Lauren have achieved through their ‘power your plates’ idea.”

Ms Dore said it was the first time the TAC had publicly called on the digital and entrepreneurial sector to help solve a road safety problem. “We’re looking forward to working with Frank and Lauren to explore the details involved in bringing their idea to life,” Ms Dore said. “It was great to have a brief that would potentially change young driver behaviour for good and save lives,” Ms Joyce said.

Other finalists included Sam Dickson and Cameron Bell, with their idea 'Morning Joe' — an application that rewards young people who turn off their phones before sleeping, measures sleep count through wearable tech, and rewards them with free morning coffees via a loyalty program with Melbourne cafes.

Katrina Mathers and David Blumenstein, comedy script writers and animator/cartoonists for "there's gonna be poo' — a mobile application that measures a persons sleep count and helps alert them to the need for power naps through alerts on the phone, also made it to the finals. The tech would also help induce a power nap by letting off meditative sounds.

Image: Shutterstock

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