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Is the answer to improved vehicle safety in the crowd?

Although the automotive industry has made substantial strides in improving safety over the years, the next frontier may reside in all of us, or in the “crowd.” Crowdsourcing is proven method to improve automotive safety. Used primarily in navigation today, new uses are being discovered daily, and the ultimate goal may be to ensure safe transportation in autonomous vehicles.

Crowdsourcing is not new to the automotive industry. The practice of sourcing inputs from a ‘crowd’ to innovate, improve efficiency or make informed decisions is heavily used by in-vehicle mapping applications. These applications have saved us from many “jams” with real-time traffic insights. The automotive industry is now exploring newer ways to harness crowdsourcing. For example, it is being used to optimize car relocation and to design cars like the Fiat Mio.

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“At HARMAN, we have seen that the trend of using crowdsourcing as a potential source of ideas and innovation is driven by the millennials - the fastest growing auto-retail segment. Millennials are digital natives who are tech-savvy, expect to use their opinions to shape their products, and are heavy users of social media. These factors are the necessary criteria for creating a successful crowdsourcing model."

Sandip Ranjhan, SVP of Automotive, HARMAN Connected Services

In the realm of automotive, an aspect ripe for crowdsourcing is safety. Approximately 1.35 million people die each year as a result of road traffic crashes. Safety is also the main deterrent to the autonomous car becoming a full reality.


Along with data from drivers, passengers and vehicle sensors, safety insights can also be crowdsourced using signals from the non-visual sensors on the vehicle, and parameters such as wheel speed, wheel angle, RPM, and data from accelerometers. Safety parameters can also be gauged from engine efficiency, braking efficiency, tire health, weight, and fuel consumption. Another critical source of data is from vehicle-road dynamics like grades, banking, curvature, friction, and hazards such as bumps, cracks, and potholes.

    Telematics Control Unit
    HARMAN offers telematics solutions to automakers worldwide, supporting a host of functions ranging from eCall to extended connectivity options such as real-time traffic reports and service bookings.
    Header image © Getty Images

    “All the crowdsourced data can then be transmitted through sensors and TCUs in automobiles by the power of IoT. Once collated, it can be analyzed to understand critical factors that would help in timely predictive maintenance and in avoiding accidents caused due to vehicle inefficiency. These are the types of solutions our automotive customers are searching for today,” said Ranjhan.


    With the growing connectivity in cars worldwide, every vehicle can contribute to the common good of society. Automotive applications for safety that are crowdsourced can result in:


    • Decreasing the number of accidents, driver fatalities, and traffic violations.
    • Reducing public safety costs related to traffic accidents.
    • Improving the safety of pilotless/autonomous vehicles.
    • Enhancing customer satisfaction levels (particularly for tech-savvy millennials).
    • Obtaining valuable insights that can be used to explore new revenue and business models.

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    Tips for Successful Crowdsourcing

    Successful crowdsourcing involves more than releasing an application or project and expecting an engaged crowd to adopt and use it in enough numbers to generate useful outputs. Effective crowdsourcing requires developing a product that provides an incentive for users to be involved in and collecting information in a format and of a quality that is useful to the enterprises collecting it and analyzing it. The steps to get started with crowdsourcing include:


    • Select and define the challenge to address via crowdsourcing.
    • Identify the right “crowd” to provide the data.
    • Design the infrastructure to capture and analyze the data.
    • Choose reward(s) to encourage participation and engagement.
    • Collaborate with the right ecosystem partners.
    • Begin – evaluate frequently and continue to optimize the model.


    “At HARMAN, we are working towards building novel approaches to data collection, aggregation, and subsequent visualization. Specifically, our focus is on issues of trust and security that are inherent to the use of crowdsourced data capture, as well as, the stewardship and usage of the resultant data sets within connected automotive ecosystem settings. Our goal is to increase the safety of vehicles and to help reduce the number of road fatalities,” Ranjhan said.

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