Globally, road traffic accidents take the lives of nearly 1.24 million people every year, and injure 20–50 million people. This makes traffic accidents one of the top three leading causes of death worldwide.
Statistics in South Africa show that 10,845 road accidents are fatal and result in R307 billion or 7.8% estimated cost to the economy per annum. Without action, road traffic accidents are predicted to result in the deaths of around 1.9 million people annually by 2020. The Automobile Association (AA) in South Africa says at least 40% of all fatalities and injuries are pedestrians, cyclists, and motorcyclists, making them the most vulnerable road users.
Imagine if there was a way that you could be warned that someone riding a bicycle was approaching your car before you see them, or that an ambulance was approaching at top speed with a critical patient. This is where Road Buddy comes into play.
This unique and proudly South African road app works by transmitting warning signals from vulnerable road users such as joggers, cyclists and pedestrians, in order to alert motorists of their presence, who are driving trucks, cars or buses, within the same vicinity.
“We specifically look at how we can use new technologies like cloud computing and analytics to provide solutions to important global issues – including water, transportation, healthcare and the environment,” says Clayton Booysen, Ecosystem Development Manager at IBM South Africa. “In the case of Road Buddy our Softlayer cloud platform not only helps them get to market quickly, but potentially expands into a global market to impact the way people live and work and potentially prevent accidents on the road.”
The technology powering this solution enables the dynamic transmitting services and a range of other commuter services designed to help the commuter, be more proactive in the urban commuting system. Together with Google maps technology, Road Buddy allows for users to send SOS stress messages to selected friends and family members creating responsiveness to emergency situations.
“The Road Buddy system is the first invention to be powered by IBM’s SoftLayer Cloud model in our market and entrepreneur programme,” says Booysen. “The model gives enterprise quality cloud infrastructure as a service. The model has all the IT bells and whistles including optimization, efficiency, storage and security at a scalable price point that helps them grow.”
Designed in collaboration with engineers at the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) and developed by some of Cape Town’s best software designers, Road Buddy (download for Apple or Android) is designed to facilitate a global send- and -receive warning system to road users anywhere in the world. The app was conceptualised in 2006, by local entrepreneur Werner van der Westhuizen of EMEWS Vehicle Warning Systems. “This system enables the company to offer service on a global scale, and not be limited to a single country or geography,” says van der Westhuizen.
Road Buddy, much in the same way a GPS signal delivers voice command, gives users an audio warning such as “Bicycle approaching!”, coupled with a visual representation of the approaching object, to warn motorists of surrounding and potentially vulnerable pedestrians or cyclists.
IBM announced on 22 July that its entrepreneur programme was gaining momentum in South Africa, driving innovation in the South African start-up community. This programme has helped produce Road Buddy. “We decided to partner with IBM, via the programme, to bring this new technology to market and support the ambition to take this global. The opportunity exists to save lives and that’s totally invaluable,” says van der Westhuizen. “If by using this app we all become a little more aware, a little safer, then we have succeeded.”
More at myroadbuddy.com