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Startup steers driver behavior

April 14, 2014
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Start Garden invest $5K in software to improve driving
Auto-Power collects vehicle-based data to develop personal driving reports. Photo via vimeo.com

A startup is using vehicle-based data to show drivers how to be more efficient on the road.

Start Garden, the $15-million seed fund in Grand Rapids, invested $5,000 last month in Auto-Power.

The startup makes software that promotes efficient and safe driving through its focus on fuel consumption, traffic congestion and safety indexes.

Personal reports

By aggregating data from a vehicle’s OBD port, Auto-Power creates personalized driving reports that reflect the driving skills and habits of the user.

The personalized reports are then compared with data from efficient drivers, as well as a composite of all drivers, to gauge how well the individual fares among their peers.

Steven Sherman, founder of Auto-Power, has experience in chemical and mechanical engineering, as well as entrepreneurial experience with the web application YouKnowWatt, which provides energy auditors with an efficient way to engage homeowners in energy consumption.

Sherman said the idea of a personalized auto report for drivers came after recognizing how Opower, a cloud-based platform company, worked with utility providers to produce individualized reports for home owners.

“They really unlocked the power of residential efficiency,” Sherman said.

He went on to say Auto-Power applies the same method to the vehicle industry.

Social proof

The software uses the social proof strategy, which is a behavioral science theory that individuals’ actions are influenced by the perception of what other people are doing.

Auto-Power incorporates the theory by using comparisons of data from other drivers.

Auto-Power also sumbitted a proof of concept to the OpenXC Traffic Tamer App Challenge, a competition by Ford Motor Co. focused on reducing traffic congestion in London.

Market

Auto-Power will use the Start Garden funds for product development and market validation.

Sherman and co-founder Dwayne Vianney plan to use customer discovery methodology and assess what motivates and frustrates consumers.

“Our plan is to get out of the building and talk to users,” Sherman said. “What their pain points are, what drives them and how we can get this into the marketplace.”

Sherman said they hope to connect the product with fleet operators, municipalities, insurance providers and users interested in improving driving congestion, fuel consumption and safety.

“This is really in the early stages and really kind of first validation that we have support for this idea,” said Sherman of the investment. “It makes it worth moving forward with.”

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