Innovation winners create recording system to enhance road safety
Published August 26, 2013
A team of NDSU students encountered a few speed bumps while developing a software program that uses vehicle-mounted cameras to record video and transfer it in real-time to the Internet. After all, the testing phase involved driving throughout town with cameras taped to the hood of a car.
“We definitely got some looks at stop lights,” said Drew Spooner, who along with his teammates spent about a week in fall 2012 driving around Fargo with cameras strapped to his car.
Their goal was to create a program that could help determine fault when accidents occur and identify perpetrators when a vehicle is broken into or vandalized, ultimately leading to cheaper insurance rates.
The project helped their team, Midwest Best, win the $1,000 People’s Choice Award at Innovation Challenge ’13, NDSU’s second annual student innovation competition, which was held in conjunction with Innovation Week ’13 Feb. 25 through March 1.
The team of sophomores consisted of Spooner, a marketing and management major from Fargo; Bryce Heustis, a finance major from Devils Lake, N.D.; and Anna Haugen, an accounting major from West Fargo, N.D.
“Innovation Week is a great opportunity for students to showcase their ideas and learn new skills through experience,” Spooner said.
The team’s goal was to use two to four cameras to create a 360-degree view around the car. They taped, strapped and otherwise rigged ways to apply high-definition cameras to a vehicle. About the size of an adult fist, the cameras were placed in different locations and angles.
They then developed software to relay the footage to a recording system, which records constantly but only stores the previous 20 minutes of footage. Any recording before that is self-deleting. After a vehicle’s internal or external sensors are triggered, it is designed to instantly store the previous 20 minutes of video and continue to record for an additional 30 minutes onto a hard drive inside the vehicle.
Heustis compares the idea to the “black box” recording device used in commercial aircraft, but with one major difference. “You don’t need to retrieve our device,” he said. “The information is uploaded to the Internet in real time with the same technology your cell phone uses.”
Heustis said he envisioned the Midwest Best camera and recording system being installed on the vehicle at the assembly line.
The team hopes the product will enable insurance companies to determine who is at fault when accidents occur or catch a hit-and-run driver. They also feel it will allow vehicle owners to have a lower insurance rate because insurance companies will charge less for lower-risk vehicles. Some insurance companies already are using forms of on-board diagnostics to lower premiums.
“I don’t have the technical expertise right now to take this project to reality,” Heustis said. “But we learned a lot of real-life experiences – forming the idea, perfecting it and presenting it. The project may have stopped, but the real-world application is something we’ll continue to develop.”
Innovation Week ’14 is scheduled for March 3-7, 2014. Entries will be accepted this fall for the event.