Motor vehicle accidents can happen to anyone, at any time. In the fall of 2018, Karthik Kalyanaraman, who is studying computer science (CS) at the University of California, Berkeley, witnessed a car accident right in front of him and the dispute between drivers in its aftermath. His classmate and friend, Akash Singhal, had himself been involved in a hit-and-run accident a few years earlier. “Because of lack of evidence, we weren’t able to locate the driver,” Singhal recalls.
The students realized how frequently car accidents result in complicated legal, insurance, and law-enforcement issues—especially when it’s unclear who’s responsible. So they teamed up with Harshayu Girase and William Wong, fellow CS majors at UC Berkeley, to develop technology that could shed light on what happens in traffic accidents. To work on their initiative, they entered Cal Hacks 5.0 (advertised/promoted as the world's largest collegiate hackathon) in November 2018. “We decided to join as a team and build a cool product,” Singhal remembers.
Most vehicle accidents, Singhal explains, lack video documentation to show who is at fault. “We thought, ‘Well, cars now have all this technology—lots of cameras and lots of sensors,’” he says. “Why wouldn't we leverage that technology to create a connected community where we share crash footage with the appropriate authorities?” The four entered Cal Hacks with these questions in mind and “for 36 hours straight we basically built the entire platform”—hatching their solution, DashOwl.