Startup Wejo aims to reduce traffic deaths with data

To demonstrate how, Wejo invited a group of journalists, analysts and others to a racetrack at Spring Mountain Motor Resort, about 55 miles west of Las Vegas. There, visitors drove sports cars around a new track, aiming to make each turn as smooth as possible.

After completing a lap, the drivers reviewed data such as speed, acceleration and the angles with which they made tight turns. They then received coaching from professional drivers on how to improve. The drivers headed back out to try to make smoother turns and improve lap times. Most were able to do just that, using the knowledge they gained to cut several seconds off their times.

More importantly, Wejo used the data to build a map of the track and make assumptions about lane width and the location of problem spots on the roadway or in driver behavior, executives said.

“We’ve got a unique understanding of the data we collect,” Barlow said.

The racetrack exercise served as a miniature demonstration of what companies such as Wejo could do at mass scale. Telematic control units embedded in millions of vehicles globally could tap data about each auto’s environment, diagnostics, in-cabin experiences and other factors.

The company said it has collected data on about 95 percent of U.S. roadways and can in a matter of minutes learn about specific traffic issues. For example, rather than simply recognizing that traffic has slowed down, the data can be used to make specific assumptions about in which lane a collision has created a bottleneck.

Such information would be important for the auto industry and governments as they look to reduce traffic deaths and create more efficient roadways, Barlow said.

In another example, data indicating a traffic collision could trigger variable speed limit signs to slow down drivers approaching a crash site and reduce congestion. And emergency services would be automatically alerted to the location. The emergency vehicles would have real-time access to road conditions and know the fastest way to get the scene.

Wejo is working with seven U.S. states and several municipalities to understand how the data it collects can be used to do just that, Barlow said.

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