SAFETY FIRST: Ross Drummond, of Ken Mills Toyota with Angela and Jim Lee and their iCARe tracker.
SAFETY FIRST: Ross Drummond, of Ken Mills Toyota with Angela and Jim Lee and their iCARe tracker. Warren Lynam

This car GPS launched could save kids’ lives

A GPS vehicle tracker released by a Sunshine Coast company could save drivers' lives, according to owners of the business.

If a car carrying an iCARe tracker crashes, a nominated emergency contact receives an alert by SMS and email. The precise location data it contains can be quickly forwarded to emergency services, says co-founder Angela Lee.

As well as detecting a collision, the device also sends email alerts if the vehicle speeds, brakes or accelerates harshly or corners harshly.

A Sunshine Coast resident and former teacher, Mrs Lee came up with the idea for the iCARe tracker when she realised a similar product her husband Jim used at work could be modified to help keep drivers safe and teach youngsters better driving skills.

Angela said the number of students that drove cars to school and had their own vehicles was greater than at any time she could remember.

"This technology monitors driver behaviour, and knowing this will encourage safer driving habits especially for students on their L and P plates," she said.

As managing director of successful vehicle and plant management company The Fleet Office, Jim Lee uses GPS-enabled vehicle monitoring systems to track the commercial fleets of civil construction clients in Australia and Papua New Guinea.

He harvests real-time information on the machines' performance from the device, which plugs into a computer port that relays engine and other information on fuel and oil levels as well as speed, braking and acceleration.

In a commercial setting the device helped a company keep track of the whereabouts and state of its machinery, Jim said. For example, an alert sent by email or text when an engine was getting hot could prevent overheating.

The iCARe tracker also allowed vehicle owners to monitor behaviour of their drivers - a feature parents could use to start fact-based conversations about safe driving with their children, Jim said.

Angela and Jim embarked on the project more than a year ago and released their first iCARe tracker a few weeks ago.

"I was developing some software for use in that scenario and my wife, who was previously a school teacher, thought it would be good if we could use some of this technology to protect some young and inexperienced drivers," Jim said.

"As a school teacher, she's keen to increase driver safety especially for young drivers."

Jim said he immediately liked the idea, and could see the educational advantages such a tool could provide.

"I contacted one of my programmers who works alongside us and said what do you think, how feasible is this?" Jim said.

The three of them sat down and devised a plan, he said.

"It was kind of a side-project, but as it's grown we've realised there's a real future to this product," Jim said.

Angela said she hoped that having an iCARe tracker fitted would motivate kids to be more conscious of their driving behaviours. It also included a handy logbook function that both L-Plate drivers and workers could use to automatically capture their trip information, and a car service reminder that is emailed to the driver so they don't forget.

The tracker can be used for every member of the family, or for businesses with fleets, but the focus was on young drivers, Angela said.

"Instead of just driving safely whilst their parents are in the car, the feedback is given back to the parent by email or by text message," she said.

The iCARe device plugs into the OBD2 port, which is located under the dash board of your car. It can also be concealed if fitted by local car dealer Ken Mills Toyota, which is offering installation on new and used cars made after 1996.

Did you know

  • Vehicle tracking devices are popular in Europe and the USA, and experts say they'll likely take off in Australia within five years. They allow safe drivers to prove their good driving to insurance companies and save money on their premiums.



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