It was a ride to the gym in August of 2020 that launched Nick Borrego’s latest entrepreneurial venture.
Borrego and a friend were driving together to get a workout in and kept hitting red light after red light. That is frustrating, especially when they thought about how much of modern life had been made more efficient through automation and better data processing.
But as they started diving into what red light innovations were out there, safety quickly took precedent.
Yes, getting stuck at a red light is inconvenient. But crashes at red lights are the most common cause of traffic-related injuries and death, according to the US Department of Transportation. More than 140,000 motorists, cyclists, and pedestrians in the US are injured each year at stop light intersections, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, resulting in about 800 fatalities each year.
“I put my foot down and I said I’m doing everything in my power to revolutionize the tech in the traffic management industry,” Borrego told Hypepotamus.
Borrego ended up talking to 150 traffic engineers to better understand the problems they faced and the budget constraints they had when it came to creating safer, more efficient driving conditions. He then got to work and launched Borrego & Bendel Corporation and its first product ATLAS (Advanced Traffic Light Automation System).
Most of us are familiar with signal timing technology and the red light cameras installed to capture those who play fast and loose with traffic signs.
Using machine vision and grid communication, Borrego’s startup solution is designed to bring “adaptive traffic control” to streets around the world.
“[We] see the amount of vehicles that are stacked up in an intersection and communicate from other intersections to that intersection to optimize traffic flows in the best way possible,” Borrego explained to Hypepotamus. That can lead to safer intersections, faster travel times, and even decreased auto emissions over the long run.
To date, Borrego and team have put together 23 different hardware and software solutions to proactively improve traffic patterns. That includes looking into the future when automotive interconnectivity will be a standard.
In the US, the team is currently working to connect with local municipalities, directors of traffic engineering, and Smart City directors.
Tennessee gets the green light
While the team has a presence in Houston, Silicon Valley and Romania, Borrego said that “the foundation of it all was in Tennessee.”
The Knoxville-based startup has already assembled a strong technical team to lead the early-stages of the venture. The other co-founders include Téa Phillips and startup veteran Randy Ridenour. Additionally, the local team is made up of ex Googlers, PhD data scientists, and military technologist veterans.
“[Knoxville] is an up and coming city, so we can really explore and help the city expand technological innovation, especially on our roadways,” Borrego added.
All startups deal with metaphorical red lights in one way or another during the early stages of growth, whether it is receiving multiple nos from investors or struggling to find product market fit. Borrego and his team know they have an additional level of complexity since their customers are large governmental or city agencies.
“You have to build the technology, build your brand, build credibility, all within a short timeframe to be able to execute this mission,” he told Hypepotamus.
But individuals and organizations alike have already taken note. The team has already done successful pilots in the City of Knoxville that showed a significant increase in traffic efficiency rates.
To get off the ground, the team has raised $160,000 in a friends and family round and are in the process of closing a larger funding round this month. They’ve also participated in global pitch competitions in which their technology has taken them from Miami to Turkey to Dubai.