mandag 22. februar 2010

Gore, Branson team up to keep drivers safe — and improve gas mileage

GreenRoad, maker of a dashboard system that judges how dangerous your driving is at any given time based on road conditions, speed and spacial orientation — targeted mostly at commercial fleet drivers — has just raised $10 million from a notable source: former vice president Al Gore’s Generation Investment Management. It joins existing backer Richard Branson’s Virgin Green Fund. Why so much interest from green investors? GreenRoad’s system promotes fuel efficiency too.
Pairing common technology like Google Maps, GPS and an accelerometer with an algorithm that determines driving risk in real time, GreenRoad’s system consists of a two-inch display. But instead of showing battery capacity, this very simple device uses color coding to communicate levels of danger. A green light means you are driving cautiously. It turns yellow if you’re traveling too fast, or weaving in and out of lanes. If the system thinks you’re driving recklessly, it turns red.
The device also records a log of driving maneuvers throughout the day. No longer do fleet vehicles need to be branded with supervisor phone numbers, requesting other drivers to report bad behavior. Managers can now view exactly how their drivers performed. To give you a sense of how sophisticated the system is, GreenRoad integrates map data so fast that it can tell that a sharp turn, or abrupt merge was actually required to get somewhere, and wasn’t just a dangerous move on the part of a driver.
The dashboard component is directly connected to a password-protected web interface (pictured above) where drivers and their supervisors alike can access real-time reports on driving performance, recommendations for improving safety measures or training procedures, and tools to calculate risk on a vehicle or fleet-wide level.
So how does mileage come into play? It turns out many studies have shown that safer drivers are also greener drivers. You’re less likely to be traveling as fast, or accelerating as frequently, which saves fuel. As TechCrunch notes, more responsible driving can shave as much as $300 off fuel costs every year per vehicle. This really adds up for fleet operators with thousands of cars and trucks on the road.
Currently GreenRoad has 80 fleet customers, some with as many as 20,000 active vehicles. Each of these clients pays $1,000 per car equipped with the GreenRoad system. That’s some massive revenue potential, considering how many other prospective clients are out there, and the lack of competitors in the space.
Founded in 2007, and based in Redwood Shores, Calif., near Oracle, the company has now raised more than $40 million. It counts Amadeus Capital Partners, Benchmark Capital, Balderton Capital and DAG Ventures — in addition to Virgin Green and now Generation Investments.
[Image via GreenRoad]
Companies: Amadeus Capital Partners, balderton capital, Benchmark Capital, GreenRoad
People: Al Gore, Dag Ventures, Generation Investment Management, Richard Branson, Virgin Green Fund

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