Sligo college's safety device aims to save lives on roads


A ROAD safety device designed by IT Sligo students to slow down drivers and save lives is expected to be on the market before the end of 2012.

The device monitors erratic driving and will alert the driver, as well as vehicle owners including parents and fleet managers, if their car is being driven recklessly.

The device plugs into a car engine and relays information about driving to a phone app, and from there to a cloud computing platform, allowing drivers and car owners to monitor where and how the dangers are being created.

Developer James McNamara, who anticipates motorists will be using the product within a year, said he hoped the device would also encourage drivers to beat the technology by driving safely.

“We think one of the attractions of the product will be the computer game angle. Many young people love playing computer games and improving their gamer scores – we believe we can piggyback off this and use it to incentivise safe driving.

“We would hope to sell it at the same price as other road devices such as satellite navigation systems. It would be €150 or less.”

Mr McNamara, who is doing a research masters in cloud computing and mobile technology at IT Sligo, was recently allocated a place on Startup Bootcamp’s Accelerator programme for start-up technology companies in Ireland.

“The programme provides an ideal opportunity for promoting the product and attracting the investors who will be crucial for refining the device and having it ready for the market in a year.”

The device is the brainchild of Mr McNamara along with IT Sligo students Calum Cawley, Áine Conaghan and Matthew Padden, who were inspired by a notorious stretch of road on the N4 Dublin/Sligo route which they live near.

The 7km stretch is bordered by 29 crosses, each one marking the scene of a fatal incident. It has been described by coroner Desmond Moran as “the most dangerous stretch of road in Ireland”.

“Once the device is plugged into the engine it can alert the user to speed, hard cornering, sudden acceleration and g-force of the car. It starts beeping if you start driving dangerously, a bit like a seat-belt does when you’re not wearing it,” said Mr McNamara.

“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.”

He said the IT Sligo team, who last summer beat 350,000 students from 183 countries to win the Microsoft Imagine Cup in New York for their invention, 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”.