Q&A: SmartDrive's Mitgang on Video-Based Safety

Photo: SmartDrive

Last year, SmartDrive Systems, a provider of video-based safety and transportation intelligence, was named one of Deloitte's 2019 Technology Fast 500 for the sixth year in a row. This is a ranking of the 500 fastest growing technology, media, telecommunication, life sciences and energy tech companies in North America.

We talked to SmartDrive CEO Steve Mitgang about the award, the company, and video-based safety technology in general.

HDT: First, tell us a little background about yourself.

Mitgang: I’m a serial data and analytics entrepreneur with a keen focus on understanding which decisions and business processes can be optimized and improved by bringing the right data together. Prior to joining SmartDrive eight years ago, I was president and CEO of Veho, the Internet television company, which is now part of Qlipso. Before that, I served as the senior vice president of Yahoo!’s advertising products platforms and services.

HDT: What are you most proud of during your tenure as CEO?

Mitgang: Our continued growth and the fact that some of the best run fleets recognize the value of our platform. Also, how we keep innovating without needing to deploy any new hardware — this is something that is very powerful and unique in the market.

HDT: What's the biggest misconception people have about camera-based safety?

Mitgang: I think putting video-based safety technology into a “cameras” category is extremely limiting. Our platform doesn’t just capture the moment of collision; it provides full visibility and understanding of the complex operational environment. We are able to capture and provide fleets with detailed information on everything that is happening in and around the vehicle, in addition to the detailed analysis on how the vehicle is being driven. Fleet managers can use this context to better manage and mitigate risks and improve drivers’ risky behaviors.

For instance, ready-mix and construction fleets need more visibility into the entire operating environment, not just the driver actions. Without this context, it’s hard to fully analyze incidents and determine fault. Capturing the moment of collision is only one part of the equation.

HDT: What's the future of video-based safety?

Mitgang: Our platform provides the necessary rich contextual information to make real-time, well-informed and data-driven business decisions that enable the drivers to do their jobs more safely and efficiently. I see it as converging with other systems to lower the total cost of fleet ownership.

HDT: What did it mean to be named to Deloitte's 2019 Technology Fast 500 list for the sixth consecutive year?

Mitgang: This is something we are truly proud of since not many other companies — if any — have achieved this prestigious industry recognition six years in a row. It is a reflection that the market needs our platform. Our impressive growth has been driven by our intimate understanding of the unique challenges that fleets face, as well as continuous innovation that ensures that our customers won’t have to upgrade to new hardware as their fleets change and evolve over time. We’re able to adapt and shift our platform to cater to, and address, each fleet’s specific needs.

HDT: What is the relationship between driver acceptance of this technology and driver behavior improvement?

Mitgang: We consistently see a minimal percentage — less than 1% of any fleet’s drivers — have an issue with our technology, and a lot of that has to do with how our system is onboarded within each organization. Drivers know the roads are risky, particularly with an increasing number of distracted drivers. Once fleet management explains that the safety program is there to help protect drivers — whether it is through driver exoneration when they are not at fault in a collision, addressing risky driving behaviors so they can be coached before anything bad happens or rewarding safe driving habits — drivers become proponents of the technology. They know that each time they head out, they put their lives at risk and feel reassured by having a video-based safety system that captures the context of any given event.

HDT: What would you say to a driver who is hesitant to have a camera in their truck?

Mitgang: As I have previously mentioned,  when rolling out a video-based safety platform, it’s important to educate the drivers on benefits of deploying video safety technology and what it means for their personal safety. With distracted drivers on the road texting, talking on the phone, eating, etc., as well as pedestrians often not paying attention, it’s more important than ever that fleets and drivers are protected.

HDT: Aside from safety, what else can camera-based systems improve within a fleet?

Mitgang: Beyond the obvious safety benefits, deploying a converged platform means fleets can benefit from having a unified data stream to inform the most effective business decisions, as well as lower their operational costs. When systems are operating individually within the cab, it can be hard to understand the full situation when an accident occurs. Any company benefits from having full objective context that video offers.

HDT: What led to the creation of the Everyday Heroes in Transportation program, which invites fleets to nominate employees who are prioritizing safety while continuing to ensure goods are delivered quickly during the COVID-19 pandemic?

Mitgang: We have the highest respect for what drivers do every day. With the heightened risk drivers are enduring to ensure grocery stores’ shelves are stocked, medical supplies are delivered to hospitals and more, this is a small token to show our appreciation for the important job they do. Each week, we love receiving and reading the unique stories that are submitted, and recognizing a winner with a $100 gift card.

About the author
Stephane Babcock

Stephane Babcock

Former Managing Editor

Stephane Babcock is the former managing editor of Heavy Duty Trucking.

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