Israeli iPhone app reports ‘bad drivers’

"Traffic Observer" turns your cellphone into a dashboard monitor; Its slogan can be roughly translated as “Don’t fume – film.”

By ARIEH O’SULLIVAN / THE MEDIA LINE
February 21, 2011 22:31
3 minute read.
Iphone

Iphone 1 311. (photo credit: digital.newzgeek.com)

 
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Imagine some driver has just cut you off, passing you illegally, speeding off recklessly, breaking a few traffic laws and generally endangering the public in the process.

Many stressful fellow drivers would probably like to pull out their handy bazooka and blow him away.

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But a new Israeli-designed iPhone application lets you take a softer response. Its slogan can be roughly translated as “Don’t fume – film.”

The free application allows users to record and report offensive driving. And it’s designed to work autonomously so the driver doesn’t endanger himself or others by trying to operate a camera while behind the wheel themselves.

Mediterranean countries are notorious for their awful drivers. In Israel, around 500 people are killed a year and about 100,000 are injured.

So, the National Road Safety Committee, a non-profit organization dedicated to reducing accidents, recently turned to a Tel Aviv software company to create an application that would let the public get involved in promoting safer driving.

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The firm Zemingo came up with “Traffic Observer,” an application that allows iPhone users to give bad drivers their just desserts.

“The idea is very simple,” Tsiki Naftaly, one of Zemingo’s founders and head of marketing and business development, told The Media Line. “Everyone at least once in their life has seen an accident or severe traffic felony, and wishes they could have taken of photo of that perpetrator to show the police or to publicize it.

“We created an application, which on one hand helps catch bad drivers on the road and on the other, doesn’t distract the driver from taking the images,” he said.

The program works by placing the iPhone on the dashboard where it videotapes the road. To prevent overloading the hard disk, it saves images in two-minute segments and then records over them.

“Once you see an accident or a felony, all you have to do is pull over and click the black button on the phone and it transmits the recording.

You can also add a vocal description. It sends the GPS location automatically,” Naftaly said.

The data are uploaded to a private YouTube account where volunteers from the National Road Safety Committee filter it. The most flagrant cases are sent to police for action. The volunteers track down the violators of the less severe infractions and replay for them their recorded driving behavior as an educational tool, Naftaly said.

For now, the application and volunteer network has only been set up in Israel. But organizations in other countries can easily adapt it for use there. So far, “tens of thousands” have downloaded the program in the short time it has been available.

The application has a double use, besides recording proof of traffic violations that can deter future infractions; it also serves a catharsis reward to the victims of bad drivers.

“The saying goes ‘Don’t get angry, get even,’ well this is a way to feel that you got the guy without getting angry or losing your temper,” Naftaly said.

Since the application surfaced, it has led to an Internet kangaroo court for violators.

Even some Israeli news shows have exposed and broadcast traffic violators in an effort to deter bad driving.

A popular news show on Channel 2 broadcast a video taken by Traffic Observer of a driver purposely running a red light.

Prosecution, however, may be lagging. An Israel Police spokesman told The Media Line that the public was allowed to submit cases of bad driving, but had to do so in the form of a formal complaint, which requires identifying themselves and giving sworn testimony so that it can be used in a traffic court.

The spokesman added that he was unaware of the application yet, but welcomed the idea.

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