Israeli startup makes heavy vehicles safer on Israel's roads

“For some reason, no one cares in Israel:” Meet GreenRoad, a driving software company that developed safety technology.

Traffic jams seen on the Ayalon Highway in Tel Aviv. (photo credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI/FLASH90)
Traffic jams seen on the Ayalon Highway in Tel Aviv.
(photo credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI/FLASH90)

In 2021, 361 people were killed on Israel’s roads, according to the National Road Safety Authority; 93 of them were killed by heavy vehicles that are involved in almost 30% of all serious accidents.

While technology that can reduce these numbers is available, neither the government nor Israeli companies that operate buses or trucks have made significant or effective moves to utilize it, according to a road safety expert.

“For some reason, no one cares in Israel,” said GreenRoad’s CEO, Dudi Ripstein. GreenRoad is a driving software company that has developed safety technology for fleet vehicles (such as buses and trucks), which is meant to reduce the number of accidents caused by heavy vehicles by monitoring drivers’ performances and offering insights and warnings to both them and their employers.

GreenRoad have over 150,000 registered drivers for fleet services around the world, including Stagecoach London, Chevron, and Coach USA; however, getting companies to adopt the technology in Israel, where the technology is developed, is proving difficult.

“I was born in Israel, raised here, I served in the army – I just don’t understand it. Why can I sell easily in Hong Kong or the UK, but I cannot sell in Israel? Every week there’s an accident,” he said, recounting a recent accident in which a bus crashed into a car, killing the driver. The bus company involved is among the many that Ripstein has tried to convince to install his tech.

  GreenRoad's phone-based road safety platform. (credit: GREENROAD) GreenRoad's phone-based road safety platform. (credit: GREENROAD)

“I’ve tried my best; [I’ve talked with] all the bus companies in Israel and it’s always ‘why us; why should we need to do it?’ No one forces them to do it, so they don’t want to deal with it.”

Ripstein explained that, as it stands, Israel’s bus and fleet companies are prepared to sustain the occasional accident, because the buck stops with the driver; even if a solution that could prevent further accidents on a wider level is being made available.

“At the end of the day, the police find that the driver misbehaved, and they put him in jail – but they don’t go to the management and tell them that they’re responsible.”

Moreover, he explained, not much is being done on a government level: “In the last few years, I haven’t heard any minister take responsibility, or say they’re setting a target to reduce the number of accidents.”

According to a statement from the Subcommittee for the Promotion of Road Safety, chaired by MK Boaz Toporovsky, heavy vehicle instructors were tested, and around 70% of them failed.

“Those who are supposed to instruct how to drive failed the test. I do not know how to explain the depth of [my] astonishment,” said Toporovsky during a knesset hearing on the matter of the risk factors of buses, trucks, and school transport vehicles.

“It all ends up in the same story – there is no general body that is responsible, and that is not acceptable to me,” said Toporovsky. “I want to see improvement from [the National Road Safety Authority].”

In a recently published report from the European Transport Safety Council, Israel ranked 30th out of 32 countries reviewed in prevention of traffic-related deaths between 2019 and 2020. The report shows that, while European countries have managed to reduce traffic casualties (including deaths) by 14% between 2013 and 2020, Israel showed only a meager 2.6%. During the covid-19 pandemic that number has increased, but largely due to decreased travel in general, and not regulation.

In the meantime, the government is taking active steps preventing general car safety: as part of the “Spring Cleaning” plan approved earlier this month, the impending obligation to install an alert system to prevent children being left in vehicles was scrapped in favor of, as the Prime Minister put it: “the precious time and wallets of citizens and businesses in Israel.”

According to the Beterem child safety activism group, 35 children in Israel died between 2010 to 2020 after being forgotten or trapped in vehicles, out of more than 800 recorded incidents.