A blessing in disguise for Alfons Weinzierl and Alexander Böckl, two students on their way back from university in December, 2014: a deer jumped in front of their car. The young men were left unharmed, the car ended up with a dent. And the deer? Weinzierl: "It ran off right away. But we know most animals die after an accident like this one."
That same night, the students from Bavaria came up with a business idea. Weinzierl: "We didn't know what to do right after the accident and we had to wait for the ranger or police to arrive for over an hour. We did not want other drivers to have that problem in the future."
As students of digital business management, Weinzierl and Böckl had been fiddling around with digital business models for quite some time. They got the idea to create an app that prevents accidents with wildlife and offers first aid advice when they occur.
During their master's degree, they developed the concept, worked with the Bavarian Ministry of the Interior and the Bavarian police. In the end, they were awarded the founder's scholarship of the Ministry of Economy and Energy for their work. Together with programmer Jozo Lagetar, the founders received 2,500 Euros in funding every month for a year and an additional 30,000 Euros for equipment.
The app will stay free
The application has been available for iOS and Android since June 2017, free of charge."It will remain free in the future", Weinzierl promises. In their first year, the funding helped a lot and by now, the the company is in the black. "We finance on service contracts and startup promotions. We don't have an office or any other overhead, so that keeps costs low", Weinzierl adds.
Attention Deer – Road signs are not enough to avoid accidents. Photo: Fotolia – Trueffelpix
For a startup, it can be unusual to be in the blacks just one year after launch. However, Weinzierl (30), Böckl (30) and Lagetar (31) have discovered a market niche. Their company Wuidi (Wuid is the Bavarian word for wildlife) won the German Mobility Award last year and was nominated for the DEKRA Award in the category traffic safety.
Wuidi links rangers, police and road users through the app. Rangers can enter deer crossings on the Wuidi website and they can leave their contact data, so they can be in the right place and at the right time in the case of an accident. According to Weinzierl, rangers will use their weapon to relieve an animal from their suffering after an accident, if necessary.
"To this day, eight hundred districts have signed up already. In the beginning, our only focus was Bavaria, but now the service is already available all over Bavaria", says Weinzierl.
Around 30,000 registered road users
Around 30,000 people are already using the app. It does not have to be open when you are driving, but it can be. "This was important to us so there would be no extra distractions", Weinzierl adds. If the driver approaches a 'risky' area, a signal sounds, cautioning them to driver slower. The Wildwarner app can also be connected to the vehicle Bluetooth.
"Since most highways are fenced off, our focus is mainly on busy country roads near forests", Weinzierl explains. The main purpose of the application is to prevent deer becoming involved in accidents by locating them early on. If an accident happens, the Wildwarner app tells you what to do, the location is detected using GPS and the nearest ranger and police district are displayed to get in touch.
Over the course of the last month, this happened about twenty times. However, of course it's hard to measure how many accidents are truly prevented.
Reflectors keep animals from crossing the road. Photo: Fotolia – Gerhard Seybert
Introducing the app in other countries
Wuidi received praise from animal welfare organizations. In Germany, accidents with wildlife happen every two and a half minutes. Offering an opportunity to prevent those is always welcome. Weinzierl sees potential to expand the app to other countries, among which Switzerland, Luxemburg, Austria and the Czech Republic.
Weinzierl has another idea for logistics companies: "On expos, we get a lot of positive feedback from truck drivers. They could use a similar function as the rangers in our app."
Integration in telematics systems
In addition, Weinzierl wants to add the application to the telematics systems of trucks. If a truck driver gets into an accident with a deer, the application can report the location to the dispatcher. To promote their idea, Wildwarner's founders are looking for a company with its own fleet. With their slow but steady approach, they have been pretty successful so far.
- Wildwarner is available for both IoS and Android
- It warns you of deer crossing while you are driving and helps with GPS localization if an accident occurs
- Founders: Alfons Weinzierl, Alexander Böckl, Jozo Lagetar
- Located in Geiselhöring (Bavaria)
- Winner of the German Mobility Award (2017)
What to do in an emergency?
- When you see the deer: brake! Switch off your high beams and sound your horn
- If a collision is inevitable: tighten you grip on the steering wheel, brake strongly and don't try any evasive maneuvers