New app detects emergency vehicles and alerts drivers

Posted at 9:35 PM, Nov 24, 2015
and last updated 2015-11-24 21:35:26-05

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. -- Three friends have left their corporate jobs with one mission, creating an app called Haasalert with the help of the Grand Rapids Fire Department.

Cory Hohs, chief executive officer of Haasalert, says Grand Rapids had the hardware, the automotive industry, a great startup community. He says Grand Rapids is the perfect place to test his new app, which is designed for emergency vehicle detection and alert.

It’s a new app inspired by his past.

“I was riding a motorcycle through an intersection in Chicago, and an ambulance was coming from the side direction, and it almost hit me,” he said.

That happens more often than you may think, said Fred White of the Grand Rapids Fire Department, because many drivers are distracted and unaware sirens and when drivers should stop.

The app notifies drivers, bicyclists, motorcyclists and pedestrians when emergency vehicles are approaching and from which direction, all via Bluetooth or headphones.

The system works using GPS. The emergency vehicle uses the app, and the app detects when that siren turns on and notifies users half a mile away.

But that’s trickier than you might think.

The developers are now programming their app on what a siren sounds like in various environments and at different speeds, hoping their research will help save someone’s life.

The Haasalert team is planning to be back in Grand Rapids in two weeks to conduct more research with the GRFD.

For now there’s no set launch date for the app, but there is a pilot app available online that both municipalities and citizens can try for free.