HORIBA Enters Market for Automobile Safety and Security with Launch of "Doraneko" Drive Recorder

1. August 2005

HORIBA ITECH Co., Ltd. (Head office: Tokyo; President: Goro Iwami), a subsidiary of HORIBA, Ltd., recently announced the development of the "Doraneko" drive recorder. Scheduled for market launch on August 5, the new product records video images, braking data, and other types of information when a car is involved in an accident or experiences a jolt or impact.

Doraneko goes one step beyond competitor products already on the market: it not only detects jolts and records images with a video camera, but also collects information on the location of the vehicle with a GPS system, as well as data on braking and turn signals. Collecting synchronized data rather than simply recording video images alone allows "close calls," which involve dangerous driving and perilous driving conditions but do not actually lead to accidents, to be analyzed. Along with helping to prevent traffic accidents, this information will be able to be utilized in safe driving education and instruction.

Market Background

Drive recorders, which record images in much the same way as flight recorders record data in airplanes, are gradually garnering attention and being utilized for their role as witness in traffic accidents. Attached to the inside of the windshield, the instrument shoots video of the area in front of the car, and whenever an acceleration (a jolt) of above a certain amount is detected, the 10 seconds or so of video before and after the jolt is recorded. Drive recorders are primarily used in the taxi industry to analyze accidents, though they are also coming into more general use.

The drive recorders that have been available up to now, however, have suffered from a number of problems and issues when put into actual operation, such as: 1) the video mainly records the view in front of the car; 2) the 10-second interval recorded around the incident is too short; 3) there is too little information for analyzing the appropriateness of the car's speed, use of turning signals, timing of braking, etc.; and 4) the acceleration sensor reacts to bumpy road surfaces like railroad crossings and ends up recording situations that are not dangerous; this means that someone has to spend time and energy sorting out the truly dangerous situations from the vast amount of recorded data. In other words, if we had a product that collected this type of secondary data and also improved the analytical methods used, it would not only serve as a reference when an accident occurs, but also be able to be utilized in safe driving education and instruction and thereby help prevent traffic accidents before they occur.

Development Concept for Doraneko

Whereas most existing products use a digital video camera to record images in front of the car primarily for the purpose of recording traffic accidents, Doraneko records video along with important secondary data; specifically where the accident took place, how fast the car was driving, whether the car was accelerating or decelerating, whether turning signals were used, and when the brakes were applied. This allows near misses, that is to say dangerous situations that might easily have lead to accidents, to be assessed and for the information to be utilized in driver education and instruction. Doraneko's functions were designed from this perspective.

Drive recorders use acceleration sensors to trigger the recording of accidents, but they tend to react to jolts caused by bumps in the road and record unnecessary information. Sorting out useful data from the data generated by harmless situations that did not lead to an accident requires time and effort.

Doraneko automatically analyzes the degree of danger in 10 levels based on the size of the acceleration and the time of the change and broadly categorizes all recorded data as either necessary or unnecessary. This propriety technology was made possible by developing a drive management system using digital recording in 1984, a first in Japan; entering the tachograph market in 1999 with a digital recording system after receiving approval from the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport; and leveraging know-how accumulated over many years in vehicle drive management. The product was developed with the aim of contributing to car safety through the prevention of accidents and enhancement of education and instruction. Through the development of vehicle exhaust-gas analyzers over the past 40 years, HORIBA has contributed to environmental protection, energy conservation, performance and high efficiency in the auto industry. Doraneko represents HORIBA's initial foray into the auto safety and security market.

Three models are available, differing in functionality and scalability.

Main Features

1. Compact, lightweight and highly functional
Magnesium alloy is used in a simple design that is compact but sturdy. The recording interval is 30 seconds, which can be set by the user to either 10 seconds before and 20 seconds after sensor detection or 20 seconds before and 10 seconds after. In addition, at 330,000 pixels the camera provides TV-quality video.

2. Comes with analytical software that is easy to use for the drive manager (on the office side)
The incorporation of an analytical function that automatically categorizes the degree of danger in the recorded data into 10 levels makes it possible to identify only the data that recorded a truly dangerous situation. Unnecessary data can be easily deleted, which greatly lessens the work of the manager.

3. Three models to match customer requirements
The Doraneko series includes a basic, inexpensive model primarily for recording accidents as well as high functionality models that capture large amounts of data on close calls that can be used in safe driving instruction and education.