The growing number of road accidents is a cause for concern across the globe and vehicles are being offered with active and passive technologies to make them safe and respond to incidents accordingly
In the Indian context, the condition of road infrastructure in urban and rural areas is also improving. However, the human in the vehicle is the only factor that has not improved significantly over time. In addition to safety systems found in vehicles, technology companies have been focussing on developing tools to aid improved levels of driving that are directly optimised for the driver. Auto Tech Review met up with Pankaj Risbood, Co-Founder, Zendrive to know more about its solutions towards making roads safer and its business potential in the Indian scenario.
There are a number of things that a person does when they are behind the wheel of a vehicle, which leads to road risks. The possibility to coach people as well as incentivise them to become safer drivers over a period of time would significantly curb such risky driving practices. This is the sort of premise behind Zendrive, noted Risbood. From a technology perspective, the company decided to use smartphones as a way of understanding driving behaviour information because they are ubiquitous.
Zendrive’s offering is hardware-free since it uses the driver’s smartphone for easy and accurate mobile tools that are enabled by existing sensors. The smartphone sensors provide information, which when combined with Zendrive tools offer services, including collision detection, risk prediction and fuel efficiency improvement. These solutions are delivered in four steps – the first being data capture using smartphone sensors to measure driving behaviour. The second step involves a pattern analysis that is carried out with the company’s patented machine-learning algorithms that can convert sensor data into actionable insights about driving behaviour.
Zendrive’s tools come into play in the third step, where they are integrated in the user’s app to understand how and when they drive. This enables third-party service providers with an avenue to deliver new features that cater to the context of their end-users. The final step involves safety and profit, which can be received by the new features that can be offered to end-customers. This enables service providers to increase retention, boost profits, grow user base and manage risk, explained Risbood.
Zendrive has focussed its strategy towards business-to-business operations, mainly due to the reason that various types of customers would like to be incentivised differently to drive safely. Therefore, Zendrive is a B2B platform that can be integrated into third-party applications. The application of the platform can be for end-consumers, OEMs as well as insurance companies. Since Zendrive is capable of recording driving behaviour of people, it can be used for coaching users into driving better for which financial incentives can be provided, he noted.
A large chunk of the company’s primary customer base is from North America and Europe, where OEMs use the service mainly to offer roadside assistance. However, the growing trend towards shared mobility is prompting OEMs to offer other features in cars used by shared mobility aggregators like Uber that are related to safer travel. Meanwhile, the consumer space is witnessing the use of Zendrive platform for family safety, roadside assistance, fuel economy and vehicle monitoring in case of teen driving.
The company is engaged in discussions with players across markets, including Southeast Asian markets of Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, South Korea and Japan. India and India-like markets are unique, especially with two-wheelers being a big segment for which the company does not offer any solutions at present, said Risbood. India is a huge potential market, even more so with the kind of on-demand delivery requirements growing exponentially.
The driving styles and behaviours are different in India when compared to all other parts of the globe, and this needs to be accounted for while developing solutions for the market, observed Risbood. There needs to be localisation for specific context and that is part and parcel of what needs to be done here, he added. In terms of Zendrive’s growth in India, the company sees the country as a huge advantage when it comes to hiring the right talent. Zendrive is scouting for people with data science, data analysis, machine learning and deep learning type of capabilities, as well as those with a mobile engineering background having the capability to deal with large amounts of data.
The company has offices in San Francisco and Bengaluru, with the R&D centre headquartered in Bengaluru since 2014. The centre includes data science, engineering, and product teams, who are developing solutions to complex problems around road safety. Zendrive is engaged in talks with several players in India for the implementation of its solutions in the market, with keen interest from the insurance space. Risbood said it is only a matter of time before the Indian market shows readiness towards accepting a solution offered by Zendrive.
TEXT: Naveen Arul