Cars that know who is driving by detecting whose hands are on the wheel sounds like the stuff of the future, but it’s just one of the research and development projects of Huddersfield-based Control F1.
Starting out as a software developer in 2010, the business has become an expert in telematics and Internet of Things, working with the likes of the RAC and the NHS.
One platform it has developed allows young drivers to be tracked using black box technology that monitors their driving behaviour, encouraging safer driving and giving them lower insurance premiums.
Current projects include using finger-printing technology in the area of autonomous vehicles. Chief executive Carl Howarth says it’s an exciting field to operate in.
“It’s massively interesting and that’s why we’ve grown as a company,” he told BusinessCloud. “We’ve picked a growing marketplace and there’s a lot of interest and development of tech around connected vehicles.”
Howarth, a software developer who worked in telematics previously, began the business on the back of a single project, working on it part-time initially before focusing all his efforts on it in 2011.
Early work included building websites for the RAC and others before their work on a basic track and trace system led to other work with telematic service providers.
While the other general software work continues, the business has allocated a team of six to R&D, looking at creating a series of patentable technology to allow Control F1 to establish itself in the world of autonomous vehicles.
This work has been assisted by funding from Innovate UK through its i-Motors scheme, a consortium of commercial and academic organisations working towards smart applications for autonomous vehicles.
One patent application is pending for a technique using fingerprinting to reveal who is driving a vehicle and analyse their driving style. From an insurers’ point of view this could be used to detect fraud by showing who was driving at any given time or, for drivers, to personalise the experience based on how they take corners, for example.
There are also opportunities for fleet businesses, whose drivers currently tag themselves into a vehicle so their journey can be tracked.
“You could look at replacing that hardware with something that has more accuracy and is less costly,” said Howarth.
“There are huge opportunities and that gives us a competitive advantage and it helps that there’s a lot of support from the Government in this area and a big UK push towards this technology.”
As well as operating in a growing industry, Howarth says Control F1 has benefited hugely from choosing the right investors and working with people who have experience of commercialising within the industry. Twenty employees are part of the team, working with customers including Travis Perkins, Johnson and Johnson and Wickes.
“Companies that are really quite prestigious are choosing to work with a business of this size and that’s down to the expertise we’ve got and our agility in terms of forming teams quite quickly and bringing on some specialist tech in the area.”