|When it comes to innovative ways of ensuring road safety, the Eastern Cape is way ahead of the rest of the world.
While it was recently announced that Transport for London would be testing new technology called Intelligent Speed Adaptation (ISA) â€“ which controls the speed of a vehicle â€“ it has emerged that two Bay entrepreneurs developed and patented a similar device several years ago.
And even though government authorities have welcomed the chance of investigating whether ISA could be used in South Africa, a top Eastern Cape transport official tested the technology developed by Tony Wessels and Deon van Tonder when they first patented it, but failed to take further action.
Once installed in a car, the ISA device uses satellite tracking and a digital roadmap to determine the speed limit on a specific road. It prevents acceleration over the limit and reduces the speed of the vehicle if the driver fails to do so.
But about seven years ago, Wessels and Van Tonder developed similar technology that went a lot further than just automatically reducing the speed of a speeding vehicle.
Their device, known as the WeightLifter Mk I, also addressed, among other road safety hazards, overloading.
Wessels said if the device was fitted to a taxi, bus or transport truck it would monitor the vehicleâ€˜s speed and the load it was carrying.
It would also regulate the speed based on the load, using special sensors attached to the suspension system. Wessels added the device could be programmed to reduce the maximum speed by 10km/h for every 10kg the vehicle exceeded its recommended load- bearing capacity.
It could also be set so that after every two hours of driving, the vehicle had to come to a standstill for 10 minutes. If the driver failed to stop, the device would slow the vehicle down 10km/h every five minutes until it came to a stop. The reasoning behind this feature was to prevent accidents caused by fatigue.
â€œOur product can also link up with other compatible devices, such as cellphones which can plot a vehicleâ€˜s movement, tyre pressure monitors, other warning devices and can be programmed to slow a vehicle down to safe speeds, depending on the situation.â€
Wessels added that if they hooked it up to the cellphone network and it was set up to communicate to the device what the speed was in that specific area, they would be able to control the vehicleâ€˜s speed almost anywhere in the country.
â€œThis was envisaged as our second phase.â€
He said the reason behind their development of WeightLifter Mk I was due to all the accidents on the countryâ€˜s roads because of the overloading of taxis.
Wessels said he had been lobbying government officials to incorporate the device as part of the taxi recapitalisation process since early 2001, but to no avail.
He added that the then Eastern Cape MEC for roads and transport, Thobile Mhlahlo, at one stage tested their device but that this had led to nothing.
â€œWe need to find someone who has the financial muscle to take it from the prototype stage to a fully developed, state-of-the-art product that can be tested in vehicles.
â€œWe personally do not have the finances to do so and it would appear we have never met the right people who could share our vision.â€
Eastern Cape Roads and Transport Department spokesman Ncedo Kumbaca said earlier that the ISA device could be beneficial to South Africa and more specifically the Eastern Cape.
He also mentioned that his department eagerly awaited the results from the testing of the ISA.
However, when asked about WeightLifter Mk I and that it had been available for further development for many years, Kumbaca declined to comment.