One morning, Sunil Vallath was talking to his wife (then fiancée) on the phone. With both of them being in other countries at the time, conversing over the phone was common.
Without warning, Vallath was suddenly thrust into a situation that haunts him to this day.
“It still gives me shivers to think of what could have happened if luck had run out on us that morning,” he said.
Parvathy, his bride to be, was in a car accident while they were talking. She was unharmed but it rocked Vallath to the core, causing him to draw on his technical background.
“The incident got the engineer in me thinking about a distraction free device that could help one stay connected without taking their eyes off the road,” said Vallath.
A technology capable of preventing these sorts of distractions behind the wheel? Could it be possible? A hands free device that could replace a smartphone yet still provide things like navigation and other multimedia?
In the United States in 2013, 3,154 people were killed in crashes involving distracted driving. Another 424,000 injuries were reported.
Often cited as the primary cause of distracted driving, the average time a person will spend with their eyes off the road while texting is 5 seconds. At 55mph that translates to the length of a football field.
Exploride is a transparent, distraction free, heads-up display. It gives a driver access to everything from navigation to infotainment through advanced gesture recognition and display technology.
Exploride can transfer information from a Bluetooth smartphone to the transparent display on the dashboard. Music, navigation, maps, calls, and even texts are controlled by either hand gestures or voice prompts.
“In the ideal world, we would want to focus on the road completely while driving. Apart from dealing with calls, music, and radio, there are things like GPS. Think of the Uber driver constantly glancing at the GPS enabled smartphone, attached somewhere above or beside them? This is why we designed Exploride. A completely new way of accessing everything you need in your car, in one place, with simple distraction free controls. This, combined with its transparent display, helps to keep your loved ones safe while driving.” ~ Sunil Vallath, Exploride Founder and CEO
Vallath has taken great care in assembling his team of engineers, developers, and designers for the inception of Exploride. With backing from the Department of Science and Technology in India, Massachusettes Institute of Technology, and angel investors, Exploride was able to secure a place in India’s budding Startup Village.
Exploride, to truly be distraction free, needed the best possible construction. Material composition was of the utmost importance. Something slender, strong, and able to process driver commands quickly and efficiently was vital.
“Building Exploride was a great challenge for us due to lack of supplies in India during our earlier stages,” Vallath recalled. “We had to import all the internal circuits from places like Israel and China for the first rounds of research and development.”
More challenges arrived.
“The next one was for us was to make the product lightweight, portable, and at the same time user friendly,” Vallath said. “We accomplished that by using unique measurements we gained through our research.”
Exploride also received insight from the greater automotive industry. Many automotive retailers provided customer requirements and specifications to Vallath and his team.
Eventually, things came together.
“Aesthetics were refined over multiple iterations to obtain the optimally compact and sleek design of Exploride,” Vallath said. “It’s robustly engineered and the hand-picked components give Exploride extreme durability too.”
Exploride’s top features include:
- Stand-alone device
- Mobile WiFi hotspot capability
- Can function without a mobile phone
- Built in dash camera with 16GB of internal storage
- Maintains a connection to the vehicle’s stereo and OBDII system
- Noise canceling technology for greater call clarity and uninterrupted voice commands
- 4 way hand gestures of UP, DOWN, LEFT, RIGHT keep the driver easily in control while accessing Exploride
“In short, Exploride is the world’s first, all-in-one, heads-up display that has everything tech related you need for your car. We believe having multiple devices for different purposes divides your attention and makes driving distraction prone.” ~ Sunil Vallath, Exploride Founder and CEO
Detroit is like many busy, urban areas, especially in the morning. When I am home and not traveling for my work in the automotive industry, I am often downtown. Usually, I give Danielle a ride to her office through a gauntlet of cars, transit buses, delivery trucks, construction vehicles, and pedestrians.
Near Woodward Avenue, especially with the ongoing construction, it can be quite difficult to navigate. By now, it’s about 8:30am and my phone starts buzzing and dinging with calls, texts, and e-mails. I asked Vallath how Exploride might benefit me and the thousands of other individuals who are on similar morning commutes.
“Every busy morning, a lot goes on when you drive. Your mom’s important call to an email from your boss – distractions are plenty during your drive to work. What Exploride does is take all of these and put them right in the line of sight, making it easier to check and/or respond to these notifications. What’s more: just after you start your vehicle, you get weather updates and forecasts. Reminders, traffic updates, alerts, and apps are built in so you can better plan your day. With Exploride, you can configure your own profile to make your drive productive and distraction free.” ~ Sunil Vallath, Exploride Founder and CEO
Exploride has a Crowdfunding site while pre-orders are taken here. Vallath, who grew up in Kerala, India, says making Exploride a reliable product for customers is his focus. Vallath wants ongoing dialogue with them and seeks suggestions for changes that could make future versions of Exlporide more effective at reducing distracted driving.
Vallath likes to travel and is often found behind the wheel of a car – it’s a good place to be, especially as Exploride finds its purpose in an ever changing technological landscape.
“Technology is growing day by day and we have developed an urge to stay connected with the world at all times. This creates a more informed individual, but on the other hand, it makes up for 40% of the causes of road accidents. Exploride can change the way we communicate and interact when we drive. With cutting edge technology, Exploride can really enhance the safety and driving experience.” ~ Sunil Vallath, Exploride Founder and CEO
More information regarding distracted driving can be found through the The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Their site details critical statistics on the subject, including the results of a 2011 Youth Risk Behavior Survey.
In addition, the United States Government maintains a detailed website on the matter.