Intersecting Innovation

Awards given to accident prevention technology

In a move to improve traffic safety and raise awareness of the dangers of phone use while driving, AT&T, the NYC Media Lab, and ChallengePost hosted the Connected Intersections competition, a call for developing teams to devise technological solutions encompassing phone apps and wearable tech. The goal was to alleviate and prevent traffic accidents by connecting and alerting drivers, cyclists, and pedestrians to potential dangers. Forty-five teams from thirteen countries and twenty-six states within the US participated in the competition, and eight winners were announced on October 21st.

AT&T ultimately became involved in hosting Connected Intersections through its It Can Wait advocacy program, an anti-texting-and-driving campaign. The company, already known for its efforts to raise awareness of the subject, sought to encourage the building of apps and technology in order to improve the traffic safety of New York City.

Judges for the competition hailed from various areas of government, transportation, and technology—including Luke DuBois, co-director of the Brooklyn Experimental Media Center at the NYU Polytechnic School of Engineering. "Novel engineering solutions that improve street and traffic safety in New York City will benefit all of us. The School of Engineering is proud to have worked with AT&T, the NYC Media Lab, the Rudin Center, and all our other collaborators to develop and support the Connected Intersections challenge."

Winners of the challenge included Tug, a phone app that utilizes Bluetooth technology to alert pedestrians to only cross when they have the right of way, and Anti-Sleep Alarm, which detects the drowsiness of a driver and sets off an alarm if it determines the driver is falling asleep at the wheel.  The Rider Alert app, Best Multi-Modal winner of the event, scans for other devices running the app while on the road and alerts the device when cyclists or pedestrians are nearby. The app also alerts the driver to look away from the device while driving.

Rider Alert co-designer Peter Pottier is the founder and CEO of Brooklyn Innovations, a product development company. Pottier’s personal investment in the app is evident: “I was hit by a car this past summer while I was riding my bike. The driver made an illegal turn.” Brooklyn Innovations had been working on safety technology before the Connected Intersection’s call for submissions, and this incident led to Pottier’s interest in expanding his team’s efforts to create a safer driving and riding environment. The app was also co-designed by School of Engineering alumnus Valentin Siderskiy, an adjunct professor in the Mechanical Engineering Department who continues his research at the department’s Mechatronics Laboratory. The team is currently building out the app and refining the features.

"When NYC Media Lab started talking about this set of issues with AT&T in 2012, we hoped what was then a seed research project with masters' students at the NYU Polytechnic School of Engineering might lead to a broader effort to explore how new media and communications technologies can be employed to make the City a safer place," said Justin Hendrix, Executive Director, NYC Media Lab. "It was rewarding to judge this challenge and see the many ideas and inventions submitted that seek to do just that."

The cash prizes awarded through Connected Intersections totaled $50,000.