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HAAS Alert Seeks to Improve Road Safety by Notifying Drivers When Emergency Vehicles Are Nearby

HAAS Alert Seeks to Improve Road Safety by Notifying Drivers When Emergency Vehicles Are Nearby

Author: Eric Walz   

Imagine you're driving down the road and suddenly you hear sirens from an emergency vehicle responding to a scene nearby. Current motor vehicle laws require that you pull over and get out of the way. But what if you didn't know where the emergency vehicle was approaching from, or you have music turned up so loud that it drowns out outside noises like sirens?

This is the problem Chicago-based mobility startup HAAS Alert is looking to address. The company's mission is to eliminate preventable roadway collisions involving emergency vehicles, including fire trucks, ambulances or police cars, when they are responding to a scene.

HAAS Alert, founded in 2015, developed an emergency alert system it calls the "HAAS Alert Safety Cloud" that sends warnings directly to a nearby vehicles via the infotainment system when emergency vehicles are nearby or actively responding to a scene. It can also send alerts to a smartphone.

The safety service provides advance warnings to drivers through popular navigation apps and in-dash infotainment systems when they are approaching hazardous situations in order to safely slow down, comply with laws to "pull over" laws and avoid preventable collisions. 

The alerts are designed to give drivers more advance notice of emergency vehicles responding to a scene. Instead of just hearing a siren, so they'll have time to pull over or even reroute. The alerts work even if the emergency vehicles are stopped on scene, so drivers can be made aware of their location as well as the location of an incident, so they can avoid the area.

Not only do the alerts warn drivers in the immediate area that an emergency vehicle is approaching, the alert can notify from which direction via GPS, so drivers know, for example, that a fire truck is approaching from behind, or if an emergency vehicle is approaching an upcoming intersection from the left.

In addition, an optional HAAS Alert Responder to Responder feature that uses a transponder that mounts to the dash of an emergency vehicle. The systems alerts responders that other responders are on their way.

Since launching two years ago, HAAS Alert said it delivered more than 100 million alerts to drivers.

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The alert system is integrated with hardware installed on the emergency vehicles and activates automatically when they are responding to a call. For example, whenever emergency sirens are activated the alert is broadcast automatically to nearby vehicles within a specific geo-fenced area, as long as the vehicle is capable of receiving it.

Each year there are an estimated 60,000 accidents involving emergency vehicles. First responders face an increased risk of injury of death enroute to a call than at the scene itself, despite the emergency vehicles having brighter LED lights and louder sirens.

According to data from the NHTSA and the United States Fire Administration (USFA), fire truck accidents are the second leading cause of on-the-job deaths for firefighters. The NHTSA also analyzed data from 1992 to 2104 and found that each year, the nation averages 29 fatal crashes involving an ambulance, resulting in an average of 33 fatalities annually.

"Firefighters are more at risk now than ever before. Unfortunately, numerous recent crashes back that up." said Chief Dan Eggleston, President of the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC).

In Illinois alone, HAAS Alert's home state, 22 state troopers have been struck by vehicles in 2019, leading to three deaths.

HAAS Alert's technology may have helped to prevent a Jan 2018 accident in California, when a Tesla Model S operating in Autopilot mode crashed into the back of a parked fire truck that was responding to an accident on Interstate 405 in Culver City.

Although Tesla's Autopilot software was blamed for not stopping for the fire truck blocking the lane ahead, a alert pushed to the vehicle's GPS may have warned the driver sooner to the stationary fire truck, preventing the well-publicized crash.

Support from the Michigan Economic Development Corporation

HAAS Alert was among three innovative mobility startups that received a $224,000 grant in 2018 from PlanetM to launch pilots in the state of Michigan. PlanetM is the the mobility arm of the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC).

PlanetM is dedicated to the evolution of advanced mobility in the state. The MEDC, founded in 1997, is working to foster, retain, and grow the mobility sector and position Michigan as the global epicenter for advanced transportation, as it once was in Detroit's heyday.

Last year, HAAS Alert deployed the first-in-the-nation complete citywide digital alert system in partnership with the Grand Rapids, Michigan Police Department, Fire Department and EMS. The pilot was funded by PlanetM and began in Dec 2018, sending real-time notifications to drivers when responders are en route to call or on-scene via Responder-to-Vehicle (R2V) technology. 

Earlier this year, PlanetM, Automobili-D and the North American International Auto Show hosted the PlanetM Awards to honor innovative and mobility-focused platforms and technologies. HAAS Alert received an award in the connected car category.

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HAAS Alert deployed the first-in-the-nation complete citywide digital alert system in partnership with the Grand Rapids, Michigan Police Department, Fire Department and EMS.

HAAS Alert also works with leading safety organizations, including the National Highway Traffic Safety Association, Department of Homeland Security and the National Public Safety Telecommunications Council (NPSTC). 

The alert service is also available via FirstNet, a private broadband LTE network that allows first responders and other public safety personnel to send and receive voice, data, video, images, and texts without concerns about network congestion or data limitations. 

FirstNet was established due to communications challenges during the response to the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the 9/11 Commission recommended the establishment of a single, interoperable network for public safety.  

Last month, HAAS Alert completed the first pilot of fleet cellular vehicle-to-everything (C-V2X) tests on Sprint's 5G network in Chicago. The tests by the fleet collision prevention company achieved a 40 percent faster transmission time for alerts due to increased speeds and lower latency, demonstrating the 5G network's potential to enhance public safety.

This week, Illinois state legislators announced new legislation intended to bolster "Move Over" laws nationwide as a way to make roads safer for emergency responders. The legislation includes a comprehensive set of policies and initiatives that will increase public awareness of Move Over laws to increase compliance. 

The legislation will also fund the deployment of the digital alerting technology offered by HAAS Alert for first responders across the country, and it appears to be much needed.

This week in Henderson County, Tennessee, a sheriff's officer was injured during a traffic stop when another vehicle hit the back of his patrol car. Henderson County Sheriff Brian Duke said the three-vehicle crash happened when Officer Dale Kaiser was writing a citation. Duke said a driver rear-ended the officer on Tennessee State Hwy 22, pushing his patrol car into the vehicle he pulled over. He says this incident could have been prevented.

"The "Move Over" law actually has a purpose, and avoiding these types of situations is exactly what the "Move Over" law is for." said Sheriff Duke to local news outlet WBBJ 7.

Eric Walz
Eric Walz
Originally hailing from New Jersey, Eric is a automotive & technology reporter covering the high-tech industry here in Silicon Valley. He has over 15 years of automotive experience and a bachelors degree in computer science. These skills, combined with technical writing and news reporting, allows him to fully understand and identify new and innovative technologies in the auto industry and beyond. He has worked at Uber on self-driving cars and as a technical writer, helping people to understand and work with technology.
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