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New app may help Nevada drivers down the road

Drivers could help assemble a map of Nevada’s roads and warn fellow motorists about potential collisions, all through a smartphone app.

The Nevada Center for Advanced Mobility will announce Wednesday an attempt to build the first statewide vehicle-to-vehicle network in the United States by encouraging drivers to download a dashcam app developed by Israeli startup Nexar.

The goal, both sides said, is to use crowd-sourcing information as a way to bolster safety and determine “hot spots” where accidents are most likely to happen throughout the state.

Bruno Fernandez-Ruiz, Nexar’s co-founder and chief technology officer, said he hopes to see half of Nevada’s drivers using the free app by 2020.

“Someday, vehicles will have radar, cameras and sensors to make them safe and autonomous, or at least help humans drive better,” Fernandez-Ruiz said. “We believe connecting vehicles to other vehicles is critical going forward for being able to create that level of autonomy.”

Unlike navigation apps, Nexar’s use of smartphone cameras mounted on the dashboard will allow the system to be more responsive to real-time accidents, road closures, dangerous intersections and other incidents.

Sensors built into smartphones will allow the app to analyze the vehicle’s surroundings. The more widely it’s used, the more accurate and predictable the information becomes, Fernandez-Ruiz said.

The app’s precision allows it to create a collision report that can be used by insurance companies. Nexar has delivered about 1,000 collision reports since the app’s launch in October 2015 — none of which was rejected by insurance companies, Fernandez-Ruiz said.

Vehicle-to-vehicle data

Someday, the vehicle-to-vehicle data could be used to further develop autonomous vehicles, said Dan Langford, innovation director of the Nevada Center for Advanced Mobility. The agency was created last year as part of Gov. Brian Sandoval’s effort to promote the state as a testing and manufacturing site for the electric and driverless car industry.

“We believe it’s in everyone’s best interest that the widespread adoption of this technology should happen because it will increase safety on our roads,” said Langford, who downloaded the Nexar dashcam app on his smartphone.

“That comfort of knowing that if something happens, you have a second opinion to support whatever happens after an accident,” Langford said. “It will be interesting to see what happens when more people start using this app, and how it affects driving habits.”

Nexar’s app will be heavily promoted to government agencies and private companies with large fleets of vehicles, Langford said. A separate marketing campaign is expected to target individuals.

Basic service for the app is free on Apple and Android smartphones, but accident reports and other services are packaged in several tiers ranging in price from $10 to $40 a month.

Fernandez-Ruiz said more than 3,000 drivers for ride-hailing companies use the app to help map the streets in New York City, along with another 1,000 ride-hailing drivers in San Francisco.

An Uber spokesman said the ride-hailing company does not have a contract with Nexar, but acknowledged that some drivers may be using the dashcam app while working.

A Lyft spokeswoman said Nexar’s app was presented last week to drivers in San Francisco, but the ride-hailing company doesn’t have access to data collected from the app.

“All drivers on the Lyft platform are required to follow applicable laws with regard to the use of dashcams and passenger privacy,” Lyft spokeswoman Darcy Nenni said in a statement.

Testing the app

Locally, Whittlesea-Bell Transportation is testing the app on 100 vehicles out of its fleet of more than 900 taxicabs and limousines in Southern Nevada.

“Their technology is better and less expensive, but it’s hard to make the change with all of the cameras and technology we recently installed to track our vehicles,” said Brent Bell, president of Whittlesea-Bell.

Contact Art Marroquin at amarroquin@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0336. Follow @AMarroquin_LV on Twitter.

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