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NZTA hosting hackathon for ideas to make roads safer

13 Mar 2018

The NZ Transport Agency is looking for new and creative hi-tech ideas to help save lives on the road.

It’s hosting a hackathon – a technology-driven brainstorming speed date - to bring together people with diverse skills, interests and perspectives to solve problems.

“We’ll have 120 people coming together in teams for 48 hours to come up with creative new ideas to help prevent needless deaths and serious injuries on our roads,” says NZTA safety and environment director Harry Wilson.

“We don’t know what we’ll get and we’re open to all ideas, but we’re looking for problem-solving with a clear focus on the outcome – preventing crashes and saving lives.”

“The Hackathon’s theme is “Save One More Life”. Last year 379 people died on our roads, and every one of those lives lost is a tragedy. We’re looking for new ways to make our roads safer and improve driver behaviour.”

“It’s about unleashing the potential of technology to reduce the road toll,” says Wilson.

“The idea is to bring together new technology and digital innovation and some free thinking and fresh perspectives. We’re looking for new ideas that can meaningfully impact road safety in New Zealand.”

Wilson says the Transport Agency will be asking teams to keep the ‘Safe System' approach front of mind as they build their solutions.

The Safe System approach aims for a more forgiving road system that takes human fallibility and vulnerability into account.

“Under a Safe System, we design the whole transport system to protect people from death and serious injury,” Wilson says.

The Transport Agency has suggested six challenge areas that the teams might focus on.

For example, it points to the fact that most people wear seat belts, but 26% of road deaths in 2017 involved people not wearing seatbelts.

How can technology help “make it click” every time in every vehicle?

Other challenge areas include driving too fast for the conditions, driving while impaired, making older vehicles and motorcycles safer and reducing crash risks on roads without median barriers.

Teams will also be able to focus on a problem of their own choosing.

“We’ve got 120 people signed up on a first in, first served basis, with another 70 on a waiting list. We’ve got developers, tech experts and people with engineering or transport backgrounds.

“We’ve got people with a personal motivation for improving road safety. All are passionate about being involved in finding solutions to an issue which affects communities and so many people.”

The Hackathon will take place in Auckland on March 16 to 18.

Participants will come together on Friday night, divide into teams and spend Saturday and Sunday working on their product or service idea.

They’ll have access to data and APIs from the Transport Agency and its partners.

On Sunday afternoon they’ll present their concepts and prototypes.

Teams are not required to produce a fully implemented solution, but a judging panel will award prizes to the top three concepts.

“We are in for a really exciting time as we engage with everyday transport users who also just happen to be really smart thinkers and technology innovators. There is no limit to what they might come up with,” says Wilson.

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