If Israeli AI Startup Waycare is significantly reducing car crashes in Las Vegas, it can help save thousands of lives on South Africa’s deadly roads
By David E. Kaplan
Christmas should be a time of rejoicing not mourning. Not so this last Christmas in SA, where it was more about roads to hell than stairways to heaven!
There were almost 800 dead on South African roads in just 18 days in December 2018.
According to transport minister, Blade Nzimande in his mid-festive season road-safety report, KwaZulu-Natal had the most deaths (162) followed by Gauteng (125); Limpopo and Eastern Cape had 89 fatalities each, while Mpumalanga had 82, the Western Cape 81, the Free State 78, the North West 57 and the Northern Cape 24.
The minister noted that although the Northern Cape had the fewest road deaths, the province had the highest percentage increase of 71%, followed by Free State with 53% and KwaZulu-Natal with 46%.
“I have been extremely concerned about the high number of public and freight transport vehicles involved in fatal crashes so far in the festive season. When these vehicles get involved in crashes, the number of fatalities increases phenomenally,” said Nzimande.
While Nzimande has in the past advocated severing links between the University of Johannesburg and Israel’s Ben Gurion University of the Negev (BGU) – where Nelson Mandela had accepted an honorary doctorate – he should have a serious rethink.
As Mandela acknowledged BGU’s groundbreaking work in uplifting Africa in combating desertification and in finding solutions for agriculture under harsh conditions, the Minister of Transport should display similar foresight and take Las Vegas’ lead and win for South Africa – not at gambling tables but on its roads.
The Lottery of Life
An Israeli startup leveraging Artificial Intelligence and Predictive Analytics has helped the city of Las Vegas dramatically improve road safety and reduce vehicle crashes by some 17% on a stretch of one of its busiest and most dangerous stretch of highway.
According to a recent report in the Las Vegas Review-Journal, a year-long pilot programme between Israeli-founded company Waycare, which developed an AI-driven mobility platform for traffic data management, the Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada (RTC), the Nevada Department of Transportation and the Nevada Highway Patrol (NHP), has yielded impressive results for traffic management and reduction of car accidents along a stretch of northbound Interstate 15 in the city, near the Las Vegas Strip.
Waycare is shaping the future of city mobility, enabling cities to take full control of their roads by harnessing in-vehicle information and municipal traffic data for predictive insights and proactive traffic management optimisation.
Waycare’s platform enables municipalities to capitalize on the immense amount of data coming from various transportation modes, including connected and autonomous vehicles, to improve traffic safety and proactively manage the city’s roads.
Responding To Surprises
As misfortune would have it, visitors to the giant CES consumer tech conference and exhibition in Las Vegas in February 2018 arrived just as the city had its first rainstorm after a record 116-day dry spell. The torrent brought grease to the surface of the streets, causing skidding and numerous accidents.
For the Israeli startup WayCare it was an especially challenging day, and came out tops.
That’s because WayCare’s traffic monitoring sees and reacts to everything relevant happening on Las Vegas’ roads and providing real-time solutions.
It does this by taking data from an elaborate network of sensors on stoplights and security and traffic cameras and combining it with information on the weather and data from navigation apps such as the Israeli GPS navigation software app Waze (bought by Google) and GreenRoad (also Israeli technology). It even uses ticket sales from TicketMaster to forecast crowd sizes at sports events and concerts.
How’s that for up to the second real-time information?
Not only knowing what is happening everywhere, WayCare can use the continuously incoming data to predict the likelihood of a traffic jam and what areas are at risk for accidents and to respond:
– by changing the timing on traffic lights
– opening and closing roads
– altering messages on road signs
– sending out instructions to police officers.
Before the use of WayCare, it was controllers who would view images from over 700 cameras across the city and make decisons based on what they were seeing, assess the risk of traffic building up or an accident occurring. Now it is done automatically, including an assessment of the risk.
“When a controller receives an accident warning through our system,” says the CEO and a Co-Founder of Waycare Technologies Noam Maital, “he creates a report that includes a video, clicks on the report and sends it automatically to the relevant party. A traffic cop who is linked into the system, now knows exactly where he needs to go, including what lane and how the accident looks. Even before he arrives, he can decide whether he needs more police or to call an ambulance or firefighters.”
Way To Go
Using Waycare, enables cities to take control of their roads by harnessing in-vehicle information and municipal traffic data for predictive insights and proactive traffic management optimisation. Its technology collects historical and real-time data from both
In Las Vegas, for example, Waycare identified areas of high-risk along the stretch where the programme was implemented, and alerted transport agencies where and when to take preventatives measures. A report revealed that “91% of drivers traveling at over 65 MPH, reduced their speed to below 65 MPH in the area where preventative measures were deployed.”
Nevada Regional Transportation Commission (RTC) general manager Tina Quigley is most upbeat. “Groundbreaking partnerships like this,” she says, “enable Southern Nevada to continue to lead the way in leveraging advanced technologies to dramatically improve traffic safety and efficiency.”
“The latest statistics coupled with the fact that we are identifying accidents up to 12 minutes faster with the Waycare platform helps translate what public and private partnerships can do and that AI is working to modernize and create a better transportation system for all,” she added.
The results of the Nevada pilot programme proved “a clear signal that AI and deep learning, when deployed in collaboration with traffic management and enforcement agencies, can have a dramatic impact on improving the safety of even our busiest and most at-risk freeways,” asserts Waycare CEO Noam Maital.
“Traditionally, law enforcement relied on anecdotal evidence to determine where to deploy resources to respond to traffic related issues,” said Lieutenant Colonel Daniel Solow from the Nevada Highway Patrol in a statement. “Now, with the technology that Waycare has brought to Southern Nevada, the Highway Patrol can proactively deploy units into an area when the system identifies a high likelihood of something happening and prevent crashes before they even happen. This translates into significantly faster treatment for those injured in crashes, quicker clearance and restoration of normal traffic flow, and a saving of untold millions of dollars in commerce related delays that are prevented.”
Nevada state officials said they plan to use the programme in other areas of the Las Vegas Valley. Waycare CIO Shai Suzan confirms that the company has signed multi-year programmes across the state.
Waycare is also running a pilot program in Tampa, Florida where there is “cross-collaboration among the city’s traffic management department as well as police, fire and dispatch agencies, all of which are focused on improving safety and gaining efficiencies,” according to a Government Technology report.
A city official confirms that the Israeli company’s pilot programme’s success is “mainly because Waycare relies on so many different types of feeds that it gets information fast, and it can verify that information better than most other agencies that require a little bit more manual interaction.”
The Road Ahead
On the 21st December 2018, shortly before Christmas, a headline in a South African newspaper read:
“It’s a bloodbath as South African road fatalities soar”
The article quoted transport minister Blade Nzimande saying that
“what stands out quite glaringly is that many vehicles involved in fatal crashes had a high number of occupants…”
It is a pity that what does not stand out glaringly to the transport minister is how Israeli Smart Mobility technology could have prevented many of those fatalities and can help save South African lives in the future.
Its not too late to take the proverbial ‘turn” and take the high road to a safer future.