Emergency Vehicle Direction Detector

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Startup Concept Summary

  • A small display and antenna system you can place on your dash board
  • It simply tells you if emergency vehicle siren is coming from back, front, right or left
  • There’s a research by Stanford University, which you may be able to leverage through licensing
  • Key is to find a way to produce cheaply leveraging existing electric components
  • Online auto accessory stores, SkyMall, and Sharper Image as your target channels

  • Background of This Start-up Idea - Emergency Vehicle Direction Detector

    Again when I was driving on the street today, I heard the emergency vehicle siren. I can not tell if it is coming from the back, front, right or left. What is worse, I am getting to an intersection, and I see a total chaos happening. The traffic accidents that directly involve emergency vehicle are frequent. In NY State, emergency vehicles injure more than 2 people a day. If you count the collision that is caused by the confusion, that must be a lot.

    My new idea is a direction detector of emergency vehicle siren that you can just place on top of your dashboard.  It will tell you if it is from the back, front, right or left.

    Current Situation of Technology Research

    I looked for such a product but I could not find it, even on On-Star/GM, as far as I see on their web.

    Instead, I found some interesting articles that indicate there are people researching it.  As I expected, GM is one of them. In this link, you can find that GM and Stanford University were working on this idea in 2003.  I can not find what happened to it afterwards.

    There is another approach proposed from Professor Deborah Withington in UK. According to her research paper , emergency siren is set in the wavelength/frequency that is too difficult for human ear to localize the direction. Her proposal is to change the sound of siren.

    However, nothing seems to have been implemented.  I could speculate a few reasons:

  • GM felt unless it is 100% accurate, it would cause a brand issue
  • The current emergency siren wavelength must have been set at the existing place, because it can cut through the noise from the far

  • I think there’s an opportunity to take Stanford/GM technical approach, and market it in the different way. You may be able to sell it as an independent solution, as a cool gimmick, as a supplementary solution for consumers, not as a guaranteed service of Onstar. (Please make sure to consult with a product liability expert, before you do anything).

    Strategy and Tips for This Startup Idea

    1) Sourcing technologies

    Don’t get discouraged with the fact that GM and Stanford guys have tried it already.  nothing is new in this world, and you can always find other people who have tried it in the past.

    Your first action should be finding these Stanford students who did the project for GM. Many cases, they will help you. Particularly, if they felt unhappy that GM is not pursuing it, they may want to be a part of your endeavor. You may be able to work with Stanford University to transfer the technology.  I could not find related patents by either Stanford or General Motors on US patent database. If they have not patented it, that would be a good news. (Please do your search yourself as well)

    2) Global Sourcing of Components

    I found a list of directories of Chinese suppliers! Made-in-China.com, Global Sources, ChineseSuppliers.org, Global-Markings.com.

    The system will likely include a number of the components like antenna, signal processing, and display.  I am sure you have a friend who is an electric engineer, you can get some helps.  Only the challenge is the sound direction detecter that only detects the emergency vehicle siren. I do not know if there’s any programmable off-the-shelf component for sound direction detection.  If you need to develop a proprietary hardware for it, then, this is going to be very expensive.

    3) Marketing

    This is a category that is very difficult to sell by setting up your own web store - people would not search for. This is an impulse purchase item.

    So you need to find the right channel to be able to catch people at the right moment.  Auto accessory related online stores are a good place for you to start contacting. Your objective is to be listed together with other auto related impulse items like coffee cup holders, and rear view cameras.

    Here are some places you may want to contact, Auto Accessory Store, JC Whitney, Best Buy auto category.

    And of course, you should submit your products to SkyMall and Sharper Image’s online store. Those are probably the best bets for you.

    Is Emergency Vehicle Direction Director an Financially Attractive Concept?

    Good news is any auto accessory tends to be pricier. I found a simple cup holder costing $70.  Bluetooth handsfree kit costs $135. Bumblebee back up /forward license plate camera costs $260. So probably something like $89 is OK for this system as a price from your channel to consumers.  So your channels would be willing to pay around $50 assuming your channel is an online store. 

    Assuming the system can be constructed based on off-the-shelf 4-5 electronics components, each of which costs $1-2 from Chinese suppliers.  You can produce the final product including packaging at less than $20 per piece.  If you sell 10,000 piece, that already gives you profit of $300,000.  Not bad. 

    Who Should Pursue This Startup Idea?

    If you can not produce this with existing technologies and off-the-shelf electric components, this could cost too much to start up.

    The person who can judge it and manage the risk would have an electronic R&D background.  If you are an R&D person working for automobile related companies, this may be a way to get out of your corporate life and startup!!


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