Speedbump

Last updated on August 31st, 2015 at 12:22 am

Hi, my name is Jon Fischer. I have always had an interest in technology and was the Massachusetts Middle School Robotics Champion 3 years in a row. I wanted to enter the Massachusetts State Science Fair in 2006 (my Junior year of high school), but wasn’t sure what I could do for an original technology project.

Then one of my older friends crashed his car speeding on a back road, severely injuring him and 2 others. After his recovery, the driver told me he knew he was driving much too fast for that road but never thought he would actually crash. I had seen similar stories in the local papers and continued to learn more about the issue in drivers ed. I noticed a recurring theme with teen driver accidents: they almost always seemed to happen on back roads. I decided to do some research and proved my theory, speeding on non-highway roads (local or back roads and secondary roads) is statistically much more dangerous than on highways. I realized that this was a big problem and set out to solve it for my science fair project.

My first step in the project was to research what products already existed for teen safe driving. I found a few products out there, but they were all “constant tracking solutions” to continuously track your teen, which have a number of issues. First, parents would have to dig through mountains of data to find if their teen was ever speeding. Second, this approach is just too invasive for teens. I knew I could build a better solution for both parents and teens!

By the end of the science fair, I had developed a hardware prototype running my own custom software that allowed monitoring of speeding by road class. Although very rudimentary and by no means a useable product, my prototype worked. It was able to be mounted into a car and detect the type of road being driven on with GPS, and then determine if the car was traveling at an appropriate speed for the road. If the car was speeding, the prototype would save the location and speed data which could be viewed on a computer. But if the driver was being safe on the road, the prototype wouldn’t log any kind of data about the driver.

I got an honorable mention in the science fair and was happy with the prototype I had made. Following the science fair presentation, my dad (who was running a small business he had started several years earlier) suggested trying to commercialize my prototype into a real product. I then wrote a business plan over the summer and entered the Mount Wachusett Community College Business Plan Competition in the fall. To my surprise, I won! And took home almost $20,000 to start my business.

I used some of this money to file a patent on “the ability to monitor speed by road class” and used the rest to incorporate the business. Because of this business plan competition win, I was also able to get several entrepreneurial scholarships for college and attended Champlain College in Burlington, Vermont. I chose Champlain because of their BYOBiz (Bring Your Own Business) program. BYOBiz is an extracurricular program at Champlain that provides student entrepreneurs with resources to build their business; primarily mentorship and a shared office space on campus.

It took another 2 years, and a partnership with a hardware manufacturer before release of my first version of the product, Speed-Demon, a commercialized version of the hardware I developed in the science fair. Unfortunately I was only able to sell 52 in a year’s time. Every parent that bought one said they loved the product and saw a vast improvement in their teen’s driving while using the product. However, I received a lot of feedback from parents who could not afford the $250 dollar upfront cost of the box, plus a $15 dollar a month subscription to the service.

I could not bring the cost of the hardware down any further and now, for the first time, thought the business might not make it. One night while playing with my friend’s new Android phone, I realized that times had changed; I no longer needed to sell hardware! Smart phones now had all the technology I needed to provide the same teen safe driving service but without selling my own hardware!

I immediately started researching platforms and found Android OS to be the best for the first version of Speedbump – The Teen Driving Safety App.

The app launched on Android phones at the beginning of summer 2011 (just as I graduated from college) and the iPhone version of Speedbump will be available in early 2012. Speedbump now has more users than Speed-Demon ever did, in less than a quarter of the time! Parents have continued to tell me how much they love Speedbump for its ability to make their teens safer drivers. As an added bonus, they also mention that their teens have become safer passengers, often telling their friends to slow down because of Speedbump reporting. Speedbump is bringing parents and teens together to encourage driving safety and I couldn’t be happier. I’d like to offer any readers of this article a Free 1 Month Trial by using the promo code “PSafety” to sign up at www.SpeedbumpGPS.com. In addition, it would be great to hear any comments or suggestions you may have for me! Please reach out to me on Twitter @SpeedbumpGPS or on Facebook: Speedbump.

HEALTHFUL HINTS

  1. Safe driving is green driving. By following the posted speed limits, you can save a lot at the pump!
  2. Help your teen drive safely:
    • Know the facts/risks – and talk to your child EARLY. Car crashes are the number one killer of teens in the United States – more than cancer, homicide and suicide combined. And risk begins to increase as young as age 12 – because young teens are also at risk as passengers of cars driven by older teen drivers (AAA gives a good overview).
    • Use a parent-teen driving contract (click here for example).
    • Always remind your teens to wear their seatbelts.
  3. Set a good example for your teens with your own driving! According to AAA, good driving habits include:
    • Always wear your safety belt.
    • Obey traffic laws.
    • Do not use a cell phone while driving.
    • Watch your speed.
    • Don’t tailgate.
    • Use your turn signals.
    • Don’t drive when angry or tired.

Comments

One Response to “Speedbump”

  1. If you have the opportunity to drive while accompanied by friends or relatives, this can be an inexpensive way to increase your experience of driving before sitting your test.

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