Israeli startup uses artificial intelligence to predict auto crash injuries

Your car just flipped over and, hopefully, minutes later, an ambulance is racing to the scene. But how much will those emergency medical technicians actually know about your condition as they arrive?

An Israeli start-up is working to close the information gap with a medical artificial intelligence system designed to alert first responders in real time about the kind of internal injuries they may find.

Volvo Cars is announcing a new investment in Tel Aviv-based MDGo to help refine the technology and bring it to additional markets. Volvo’s financial backing follows a similar investment announced by the Korean car company Hyundai Motor last month. The latest investment comes through Volvo Cars Tech Fund, the company’s venture capital investment arm.

“MDGo’s technology aims to do something that is close to our hearts, which is saving lives,” Zaki Fasihuddin, CEO of Volvo Cars Tech Fund, said in a statement.

The car companies did not reveal the size of their investment. MDGo officials would only say that each investment was in the millions of dollars.

It’s the latest move by automakers to expand the reach of their increasingly connected cars tethered both to the internet as well as the manufacturers in real time.

IHS Markit forecasts that by 2023, worldwide sales of connected vehicles will reach 72.5 million, up from 24 million in 2015. That would lead to almost 69% of passenger vehicles sold exchanging data with external sources. Some worry, however, that while the information gathered could improve driving performance and safety, it may also lead to intrusions into personal privacy, tracking drivers’ whereabouts and behaviors.

In an accident, MDGo doesn’t rely on personal information or sensors monitoring the vital signs of drivers and passengers. Instead, MDGo uses one of the car’s existing sensors that measure acceleration to attempt to predict what kind of internal injuries likely occurred.

The idea started with co-founder Itay Bengad, an avid biker, who lost sight of a companion peddling beside him.

“He found his friend unconscious,” another co-founder Gilad Avrashi said of Bengad and his friend. Bengad, a physician, was nevertheless hamstrung by the fact that he had not witnessed the accident and had a limited ability to diagnose his friend’s condition. The company was founded in December 2017, after the accident.

Today, more than 250,000 vehicles through Israel are connected to MDGo through an aftermarket device. Since January, the device has produced predictive accident reports in more than 700 accidents, company officials said. MDGo hopes in the near future, the car’s connected technology itself will be able to rely the data directly to MDGo.

It’s that data from accelerometer sensors that allow MDGo to predict gravity forces that impacted the head, neck, chest, internal organs and pelvis of vehicle occupants during a crash. This data would be processed by MDGo using an algorithmic model to predict what kind of injuries may have been sustained based on the force of the crash. Then, a report would be transmitted to trauma physicians and emergency personnel via a cloud-based platform to provide the appropriate and timely treatment.

Using the new technology, Avrashi said injured people are not routed to the nearest hospital necessarily, but to the right hospital with the right doctors and equipment. Another potential benefit: Emergency services will not send more manpower or equipment than will likely be needed.

For example, any rollover accident once required by policy that Israeli emergency services send a life-support medical team to the scene. But the data has shown that many rollovers are at slow speed and the injuries as a result may not need such a critical level of medical support.

A more efficient use of resources, as well as routing patients quickly to the right hospital, could speed medical treatment, and therefore save lives, company officials said.

It’s possible that the company will next expand to Sweden or South Korea, Avrashi said, though the company hopes to make it to the United States in the near future.

The Volvo Cars Tech Fund was launched last year and invests in high potential technology startups around the globe. The MDGo investment is its first outside the U.S. and Europe.

Israel has become the latest hotbed for tech companies, attracting a number of automakers and their suppliers in recent years. Dearborn-based Ford Motor Co. officially opened a research and development center in Tel Aviv last month.

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