University of Minnesota startup Drive Power uses mobile app DriveScribe to monitor and coach teen driving skills

MINNEAPOLIS / ST. PAUL (01/12/2012) —Some 16.5 million drivers are involved in traffic accidents in the United States each year, and more than 12 percent of them are under the age of 20—despite the fact that teenage drivers constitute less than 5 percent of the total driving population, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Using research from the University of Minnesota, Drive Power, LLC, aims to change those grim statistics by introducing DriveScribe, a revolutionary mobile app that encourages safe driving habits and provides real-time coaching to novice drivers.

“For the first time, the same technology that has significantly increased the prevalence of distracted driving will be used to reduce distractions and promote safe driving behaviors,” said William England, founder and CEO of Drive Power. “While the National Transportation Safety Board has recently called for a nationwide ban on using cell phones while driving, DriveScribe provides a much more practical, engaging and ultimately effective solution to combat distracted driving as well as provide assistance to novice drivers.”

Developed by university mechanical engineering department researchers Alec Gorjestani, Arvind Menon, Eddie Arpin; Craig Shankwitz, Janet Creaser, Michael Manser and Max Donath, the technology combines several functions to promote safe driving. It provides real-time feedback to the driver; blocks calls, emails and text messages while the vehicle is in operation; notifies parents in real time when traffic violations occur in real time; and logs driving activity to the DriveScribe web portal for later review.

“We’re trying to help teens become better drivers, sooner,” said Gorjestani, who also serves as Drive Power’s vice president for technology. “The crash rate for new drivers is very high, especially in the first six months of driving, so we decided to do something about it.”

Social comparisons, points and rewards for safe driving and a sophisticated scoring system to quantify the attributes of safe driving, referred to as the Safe Driver Score, are the major features Drive Power is incorporating into DriveScribe on top of what was built at the university in preparation for the application’s public release in the spring of this year. DriveScribe is not only for teen drivers and their parents, but eventually senior drivers, commercial vehicle fleets and insurance companies.

The technology behind DriveScribe was licensed exclusively to Drive Power by the University of Minnesota’s Office for Technology Commercialization.

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