Tiwi tracks travels of trucks (and teens)
A new tracking system called Tiwi can monitor a vehicle's speed, throttle position, G-forces, fuel consumption and whether the driver is wearing a seat belt.
Tiwi, created by Inthinc Technology Solutions, of Logan, Utah, initially was designed so that freight companies could better monitor their drivers' habits on the road. But the system also will be sold to concerned parents of lead-footed teenagers.
The Tiwi system is plugged into a vehicle's OBD-II port. Vehicle data are uploaded to a Web site through a transmitter on the vehicle's windshield.
If the driver violates conditions established by the fleet operator -- such as a fleet's speed governance of 65 mph -- a voice box in the unit tells the driver to correct his driving.
Tiwi also includes “speed by street” GPS mapping, which can tell whether a driver is speeding in urban conditions.
If the violation is not corrected quickly, Tiwi sends a violation alert to the fleet owner's customized Web site, which Tiwi owns and operates. The Tiwi voice box also allows incoming phone calls to the vehicle from the device owner, such as, “Bobby, bring the Volvo back from Tijuana right now.”
If the vehicle is involved in a crash, the Tiwi device retains all data from two minutes before the crash and one minute after.
Inthinc has conducted six months of pilot testing on 3,000 vehicles, resulting in reductions in crashes and fuel use, said Inthinc CEO Todd Follmer. An extrapolated data pool showed a crash reduction from 2.6 down to 0.3 per million miles driven.
“It's instant behavior change,” Follmer said. “If gas goes to 5 bucks, I can reprogram the maximum speed on my entire fleet with a few keystrokes, rather than having to change engine governors on hundreds of vehicles, which would take years.”
The device costs $600 per unit, plus a $25 monthly subscription fee for the Web site. For large fleet operators, the cost per device is $750, plus a $30 monthly fee for a more robust Web site to track an entire fleet's data.
Used in Nascar, oil transport
Before its mass-market application launched this month, Tiwi was created as a crash-data recording device, but with a twist.
Because British Petroleum was transporting oil from Alaska's remote North Slope, cell phones did not work. So Tiwi integrated the technology with a built-in Iridium satellite modem to make sure any driver who crashed on the treacherous roads could be reached quickly.
The technology also has been tested as a crash telemetry device in the NASCAR racing series after the 2001 death of Dale Earnhardt during the Daytona 500. Subsequent crash testing with Tiwi-equipped cars resulted in the series developing the SAFER soft barriers around racetracks, which have reduced injuries in crashes.
Inthinc also has installed the technology on vehicles operated by Halliburton and other contractors in military applications.
Privately held Inthinc reported $70 million in revenues in 2008.
Follmer joined the company in January 2006. He had been active in high-tech mergers and acquisitions when Inthinc approached him. What Inthinc did not know was how much Follmer appreciated their technology.
The previous year, Follmer's teenage son was driving quickly in suburban Orange County, Calif., with his girlfriend in a pursuing vehicle. The girlfriend lost control of her car, crashed and was killed.
When Follmer saw the Tiwi technology, he realized its importance.
“What can we see before the crash happens?” he asked. “Can we stop the driver from doing these things?”
While the Tiwi system cannot physically inhibit or slow the operation of a vehicle, its audio warnings to the driver can reinforce safer driving habits. Violations can be edited on the Web site. So if a sudden “G” load on the car is noted, a driver can tell the fleet owner he had to swerve to avoid a collision and thus clear his record.
So far, there is no rental-car client for Tiwi. But Follmer sees an opening.
“I'd bet there is a rental fleet operator willing to lose customers who abuse the cars to give better rates to customers who don't abuse,” Follmer said. “Plus, the fleet operator would know if there was an issue with the car as soon as it was turned in.”
You can reach Mark Rechtin at firstname.lastname@example.org. -- Follow Mark on