Imagine that . . . students on road to success after winning top tech prize for driver safety
IT's a small box that will help parents sleep easier at night and reduce deaths on the roads.
A group of Sligo IT students have been awarded a prestigious technology prize for inventing a device that warns parents, fleet managers and car owners if their car is being driven dangerously.
The 'Hermes' device beat off stiff opposition from 350,000 students from 183 countries to win the Microsoft Imagine Cup in New York, and now the inventors hope to secure investment which would allow it to go into production.
The device they developed plugs into a car engine and relays information about erratic driving to a phone application, and from there to laptops and home computers.
It allows drivers and car owners to monitor where and how dangers are being created, and is likely to sell for less than €200.
The device was inspired by a notorious stretch of road on the N4 Dublin/Sligo route which is currently bordered by 29 crosses, each one marking the scene of a fatal accident.
"That's one of the reasons we are so passionate about this; we drive past those crosses every day and we know that hundreds of people are dying on the roads in Ireland every year and we wanted to do something to stop this slaughter," co-inventor James McNamara said.
"We had initially probed the possibility of researching the impact of potholes on road safety but we quickly realised that driving behaviour was a much bigger factor in road deaths than potholes.
"Hermes will alert the user to speed, to hard cornering, sudden acceleration, in other words things we learn from the gravitational force. We consulted with garda crash forensic experts during the development process to give us a better insight into what the dangers are."
Speaking about the IT Sligo students, Paul Rellis from Microsoft Ireland said: "Each year the Microsoft Imagine Cup shines a light on incredible, innovative students around the world and this year we were delighted that the winning team came from Ireland. It's a great sign of the talent that is being developed in Irish universities in the technology sector.
"There has been great interest in the students' project and I'm delighted that the students are continuing to pursue their ambition of getting this project up and running as a viable business. We're looking forward to seeing what happens next for them."
Mr McNamara now plans to produce the device and has been awarded a place on a programme to help start-up technology companies.
The three-month programme will provide mentoring and capital to help start a company before introducing the team to potential investors.
"Our goal is to keep it in the same price as a sat-nav, about €150-€200," he added.
"We want it to be a fairly low cost because the more cars you can get it into, the more lives you can save."
Other team members include Calum Cawley, Aine Conaghan and Matthew Padden.