Artificial intelligence increases safety on the roads. Interview with the CEO of WatchOUT!

Justyna Laskowska

10 min of reading

22 June 2021
Automotive fans get ready for an AI revolution! WatchOUT is a solution that will make driving safer thanks to artificial intelligence. And that without the driver having to intervene.

What is the project that ICEO helped create? The best person to talk about WatchOUT! is its CEO. Oliwer Kotecki is an entrepreneur with many successes. He founded and sold several startups for profit and co-founded companies that are now among the largest in Europe. Based on the experience gained, he became an analyst in the field of broadly understood user acquisition, trought Growth Hacking and conversion optimization (SXO*) methods. He has managed to cross the BEP point three times with the startups he cooperated with.

Justyna Laskowska: Why did you start working on WatchOUT!

Oliwer Kotecki: I am a fan of cars and as a driver I know how dangerous our roads are today. Bumps and potholes, road works that appear out of nowhere, many kilometers of traffic jams and a real nightmare. They cause us to lose time, money and the joy of driving, not to mention the possibility of losing our health or even our lives. WatchOUT! is an extra pair of eyes that, thanks to artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML), will help us avoid dangers and surprises on the road - it will increase the safety and comfort of drivers. Thanks to new technologies, we are able to download a video image from a car recorder or mobile application, which we then analyze using neural networks to identify what information it contains. In this way, we find out if there is a pedestrian in front of the car, a cyclist, a hole in the road, a new traffic sign, a speed check, a change in the color of a traffic light, and a variety of other events. Thanks to the original development of the mechanics of communication between devices and collecting information from multiple cameras, we are able to easily add a new layer of security and warn the user when a vehicle is approaching in front of him.

Who's behind the project? What have you done before?

Automotive enthusiasts, first and foremost. We approached WatchOUT! as if we were creating a solution for ourselves. The team consists of specialists from different fields. Przemek is the author of the first version of the WatchOUT! application for iOS devices and an enthusiast of AI and IoT solutions. We also work with Michał, a software architect and software developer with experience in Big Data. Most members of the team are graduates of AGH University of Science and Technology with engineering degrees. We also draw on the support of the scientific community. The leader of the research project is Dr. Eng. Marcin Garbarczyk, whose experience is invaluable, having led several projects in telemetry, and the use of advanced technologies to process Big Data, both as the leader of the NASK-PIB Telemetry Research and Measurement Team, and in 2016 as a technical security project engineer for the international corporation General Electric. The team continues to grow.

I've always been attracted to cars, although professionally I've been involved with startups, mostly software. I used to be a programmer, however my career path followed the so-called "missing skills". When developing applications, if there was a programmer who could do it better, I focused on other aspects, like designing the UI. If there was a graphic, I took care of a better UX. If there was an architect, I focused on traffic acquisition, sales and operational matters. This process has brought me to the point where I can fully utilize people's mastery and unique skills to achieve the best effect together as a team. With age, I have gained more humility and extremely valuable experience. I have built an extensive network of contacts that includes the best of the best in the industry and has allowed me to build one of the most progressive technology companies in the country and the world. I am not afraid to take on the giants of the market, because it is really difficult to build such an experienced team, especially in line with the startup philosophy - without having 100 million in the bank account.

Now let us come to the application itself? Can you explain to me how WatchOUT! works?

The application records the route in real time. Thanks to the communication between devices and the use of artificial intelligence, WatchOUT! converts the data from a video image into notifications about hazards and obstacles on the road- without the driver's involvement. In this way, our system effectively detects accidents, traffic jams, lane damage and speed limits and informs drivers about them.

This is well explained in the video footage and on our Instagram where we show the ways to use WatchOUT!.

Imagine such a situation - you are driving through the city and want to park ... In Cracow, the road infrastructure is so hopelessly developed that if you do not immediately find a parking space in the center (I have an apartment there), you have to drive 4 kilometers to get to the same place. With WatchOUT! every car communicates via the web - "Hey, here's a spot if anyone wants it". So you can be navigated directly to a free parking spot - instead of driving around, burning gas, poisoning the environment, and most importantly, wasting precious time. There's no parking, no infrastructure, aside from the annual visualizations of the Metro - it all boils down to the fact that everyone should ride a scooter, which I do whenever I can. But there are situations where it's not a convenient solution, like shopping or going to a business meeting. It's a totally unecological approach to urban planning. I hope to help city governments and provide valuable and reliable information on how to better develop infrastructure.

When driving with WatchOUT! we only get confirmed traffic reports. And why is that? Because we, as the only ones on the market, verify the information with artificial intelligence. It's impossible to falsify reality - we verify all messages using photos from the device or application. This way we get reliable information about accidents, traffic jams and other difficulties. Everything happens locally on the device, without the need for Internet access. We provide real-time safety, especially for pedestrians and cyclists, who are detected much faster thanks to good optics - especially at night. This is especially true now that Pedestrian Law has come into effect. With WatchOUT! motorists have the chance to spot a pedestrian on the sidewalk much faster, especially when there is a lot going on in front of them and they can't fully concentrate on watching the roadside. Rule violations can also be signaled to help novice drivers improve their driving technique.

Almost every day we hear about changes in road traffic regulations. Will WatchOUT! help drivers navigate the maze of legal changes?

Yes, it will. Thanks to WatchOUT! drivers will be provided with a tool to help them drive legally. Users of the application will receive notifications about new national rules, but also about local changes in traffic organization or detours. I live in Cracow and understand very well what drivers face every day.

Will you develop more AI and ML-based functionalities in the future?

Absolutely. We plan to implement an information system about available parking spaces. Thanks to WatchOUT!, every driver will be able to quickly find and pay for a parking space. But this is not the end. The next stage will be a module for analyzing and improving driving style. With the help of a system that uses artificial intelligence, the driver will learn what mistakes he makes and how to avoid them, as well as receive tips on cornering and economical driving. For fans of competition on the track, we have also prepared a real treat, thanks to which they can compare their results. Drivers will also receive tips on how to better manage the track. We will use more precise GPS and provide more accurate acceleration data, just like professional speed measuring devices.

Will your customers only be drivers? Are you planning solutions for other target groups?

Our system has many uses. We want WatchOUT! to go to companies and local governments. The application will make it possible to monitor fleet vehicles and make better decisions regarding the management of logistics processes and transport. In addition, we are able to protect vehicles and fleets from theft. Monitoring, thanks to artificial intelligence and the ability to work 24/7 offline, will automatically detect unusual behavior of people in the environment and inform the owner.

Based on the analysis of road traffic and driver behavior, WatchOUT! It will also provide valuable data for local governments to optimize the use of road infrastructure and contribute to the realization of the Smart City vision.

As a fan of the automotive industry, aren't you also afraid that autonomous vehicles will take away the joy of driving?

I myself have a vehicle that is packed with technology, as it is a BMW i8, but to be honest, internal combustion engines are still untouchable for me. Ferrari, Lamborghini, Koenigsegg - they all build such power units themselves, which reduce the cost of burning petrol, increase take-off power and provide driving pleasure at the same time. Yes, a bit like the i8, except instead of 400hp they make 1500hp. Because at the end of the day, what causes the most fuel consumption? Physics. Getting the car from 0 to a certain speed, especially when we're stuck in traffic.

I think the future is sports cars, treated as a hobby, and daily transportation in the form of Hyperloop or Nevomo (Polish solution). Thanks to the latter, with a structure similar to a train, we will be able to go from Zakopane to Gdańsk in 15 minutes. Car sharing, scooters and other vehicles will be available on site to get around the city by yourself. Many in the industry agree and see it that way.

My dream is also to be able to adapt WatchOUT! to autonomous solutions. This is possible because, unlike Tesla, BMW and other car manufacturers, we focus on openness and we have data from all vehicles, regardless of brand. I hope that when we have our device ready, we will be able to plug the cable into the CAN machine and take full control of the car, so that most car models (from 2012+) will be able to drive autonomously.

* A strategy based on increasing website visibility, but also increasing conversions. The name came from the combination of SEO with UX.

Justyna Laskowska

Marketer, PR Specialist. In the IT industry for over a decade. Fan of the written word, especially commas and short sentences. Always curious about new technologies and interesting people.