According to the World Health Organisation, approximately 1.35 million people lose their lives in road accidents each year, a large percentage of which are children and young adults aged 5 to 29 years.
Among the leading causes of accidents is mobile phone use which is reportedly to blame for just over half of all road accidents. Although aware of the dangers of using your phone whilst driving, keeping it out of temptation’s way when behind the wheel is not necessarily easy, especially if you’re also relying on a GPS navigation App such as Google Maps or Waze to get you where you need to go.
Luckily, Breega startup, Eyelights, has come up with a solution for both bikers and automobilists that allows you to benefit from your smartphone’s technology whilst keeping your hands on the wheel and your eyes firmly on the road.
The Eyelights adventure began back in 2015. Founder and CEO, Romain Duflot had been training as a fighter pilot when he came up with the idea of adapting the Head-Up display technology used in pilot’s helmets that allows them to navigate, track flight conditions and aircraft performance whilst flying at high speeds, for motorbikers helmets. Himself a keen biker, Romain was convinced that a similar Head-up Display device for bikers would not only make road travel more comfortable but also safer.
Looking to recreate the advanced technology used in fighter pilot helmets on a smaller scale in his garage, he came up with a Head-Up display device that could be fitted into any sort of helmet regardless of its shape or size.
Later that year, Romain took his home-made prototype to the Salon xx to test it out on fellow bikers. It was met with an enthusiastic response. EyeRide, as it would later become known, was born.
EyeRide is an all-in-one device that combines head-up display, GPS, hands-free kit and voice command. It uses Bluetooth to connect to the rider’s smartphone and with the help of the world’s smallest OLED screen, projects a hologram displaying navigation apps, music, calls and more, in front of the rider’s eye whilst allowing them to see and stay focused on the road. Voice command means that the rider can give instructions, switch maps or music and without looking down at their handlebars or getting distracted by their smartphone.
Riders therefore can benefit from their smartphone’s technology without becoming distracted by it.
The components used in the prototype are expensive meaning that in order to launch the product properly, large- scale funding was needed. Thanks to an initial funding from friends and family, help from incubator/ Startup studio IoT Valley in Toulouse and then TechStars in Paris, Romain was able to found Eyelights with his sidekick and friend, Thomas de Saintignon. They were able to keep developing and testing the EyeRide technology whilst looking for investors to help finance wide-scale production of the much awaited HUD device.
Eyelights’s first meeting with the Breega Partners Ben Marrel (Co-founder) and Isabelle Gallo in 2018 led Romain to believe that they were on the right road. Not only did Breega understand the product and its utility but also saw the product’s potential and how it could be adapted for cars:
“Breega has both vision and a deep understanding of technology which is quite rare. During our meetings we came up with the idea of creating a holographic device for cars that could then be sold to car manufacturers”Romain Duflot
Breega agreed to back Eyelights and a few months later the company launched their Head-up Display for automobilists, EyeDrive, at CES at the beginning of 2019. EyeDrive was an instant hit with the New York Times naming it 2019’s “coolest device”.
Romain tells us that having Breega as his VC has helped him to accelerate (pun intended) in more ways than one:
“Having Isabelle as a board member is a great help, she gives great strategic advice, enabling me to step back and see the bigger picture which, for a founder, is not always easy”.
He also tells us that thanks to Breega he has been able to hire the right key talents at the right time and that the business and communications advice and operational help has also proved invaluable.
Two years, two groundbreaking devices, 10 thousand clients and the largest ever tech hardware (KickStarter) crowdfunding campaign on, and Eyelights have recently launched an updated version of their HUD device for motorbikers. EyeRide II as it is called is already proving to be a hit.
And happily, any fears of the Covid crisis impeding the company’s progress were expelled by a 300 % increase in sales.
So it’s all systems Go for the Toulousain startup. Something tells us however that for Eyelights, the journey will not end there. Already sold across Europe, in the US and Japan, word has it that their HUD device for cars, EyeDrive, has piqued the interest of some major international companies who may be looking to help the startup go even further, faster. It looks like there’s more to come so watch this space… but keep your eyes on the road.