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Startup Derq Wants to Reduce Pedestrian, Cyclist Deaths

The software provider, which uses AI to predict danger, recently demonstrated its products to the Florida DOT. A company executive details the company’s visions and plans as pedestrian and cyclist deaths increase.

pedestrian crossing
With an increase in pedestrian and bicyclist deaths in the U.S., traffic safety startup Derq is betting that its technology can appeal to state and local governments determined to reduce those fatalities.

That optimism follows a recent demonstration of the company’s technology to the Florida Department of Transportation, along with federal infrastructure money flowing into local and state public agencies. Derq says its software tools, powered by artificial intelligence, can help drivers avoid collisions with bikers and walkers, among other tasks.

According to a recent report from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, pedestrian deaths increased 13 percent and bicyclists deaths 5 percent year over year in 2021. The federal government has earmarked $5 billion for local, regional and tribal programs designed to reduce all roadway deaths.

As all that happens, transit innovation continues to speed up, with agencies not only seeking to make transportation safer but also more efficient and responsive to new work and housing patterns.
The recent demonstration in Tallahassee, Fla., which also involved Derq partners Control Technologies Inc., Danlaw and CēVē, involved use cases for the emerging technology such as activating flashing pedestrian signs at mid-block crossings and sending alerts to vehicles about the presence of a pedestrian or cyclist. Not only that, but the company says its technology can alert pedestrians and cyclists via a mobile app about approaching vehicles that may be on a course to hit them.

“Our primary customers are state and local agencies,” Derq co-founder and COO Karl Jeanbart told Government Technology. “We are also partnering with different businesses that cater to this market. We are hardware agnostic, mainly a software company.”

That means Derq is setting itself up not only to take advantage of federal infrastructure funds but the rise of smart cities and so-called connected vehicles — efforts that involve a variety of sensors, cameras and other gear, along with a variety of communication standards and methods. The technology is being designed to work with vehicles that have drivers as well as autonomous cars and trucks.

“We can work with almost any camera sensor,” Jeanbart said. “We are adapting signals based on safety information, and sending safety insights to our dashboard.”

The company says its AI platform can take in and aggregate data from “various sources, including traffic cameras, signal controllers, connected vehicles, smartphone apps and other cloud-based services,” according to a statement. The technology then detects, tracks and predicts “the intent of pedestrians, cyclists and vehicles as they approach crossings in real time through its AI-powered computer vision algorithms.”

According to Jeanbart, Derq has more than 30 customers, with projects of different sizes. For instance, in Detroit — the company has offices there and in Dubai — the work includes a long road corridor, not a relatively small area. The company primarily earns revenue via its software, licensing it short- or long-term to local and state governments.
Thad Rueter writes about the business of government technology. He covered local and state governments for newspapers in the Chicago area and Florida, as well as e-commerce, digital payments and related topics for various publications. He lives in New Orleans.