GPS map, satellite, smartphone, and cars

Situated at the crossroads of the East and the West, NYU Abu Dhabi helps students engage with the world’s most dynamic economies while creating an entirely new ecosystem for entrepreneurship in the Middle East. That’s how the students who founded RoadWatch, an app that incentivizes safe driving in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), built a product with campus resources and went on to win national acclaim.

RoadWatch app title screen

Dangerous driving remains one of the leading causes of death around the world, claiming more than 1.25 million lives per year. When the government of the UAE asked university teams to design a mobile app for public service, the five students behind RoadWatch naturally turned to road safety. “Our members have different backgrounds, coming from four different countries and two of NYU’s degree-granting campuses, but we share a common interest in using technology for the public’s well-being,” says Quan Vuong, one of the team’s programmers.

RoadWatch screenshot of dialogue box to edit speed limit warning for mapped area
RoadWatch screenshot showing an area called out on a map

Together, they created RoadWatch, a real-time driving assistant with three components: a phone app, a smartwatch app, and a web app. The phone and watch app track driving habits like speeding, tailgating, and swerving. It also offers real-time road alerts; and monitor the driver’s biometrics if they start to doze. The web app also provides police with a map-based interface. This allows police to send audio alerts and set speed limits in targeted areas. All the while, the app turns driving into a game. Users earn points for following regulations and navigating roads more carefully.

To develop their app, the team made use of Abu Dhabi’s on-campus Engineering Design Studio. “It’s a remarkable resource with a tradition of excellence,” says team member Maitha Al-Memari. “Matt Karau, our mentor, drove us to question the usefulness of our ideas and made us delve into the nitty-gritty of the design, yet he always gave us the freedom to pursue our own solutions.” Finally, the team met with officials from the UAE ministries of education and the interior in order to discuss marketing their app.

The RoadWatch team at an award ceremony

Ultimately, the RoadWatch team won top honors at the World Government Summit in Dubai. The app earned 2016’s “Best m-Government Service Award,” which awards government entities for innovative smartphone applications. “Now our ideas are being incorporated into the Abu Dhabi police’s own driving app,” says Quan. “They’re releasing a big update soon to a substantial user base, and we’re proud to see our contributions not only be recognized but also effect positive change.”


  • Collaborate with local community members at StartAD, NYU Abu Dhabi’s innovation platform.
  • Refine your start-up with the Venture Launchpad, an intensive 10-day series of workshops.
Workstation with soldering equipment and wires


Are you interested in exploring the dynamics of social innovation, organizational change, and entrepreneurship across the Middle East? You can take a course in Leadership and Social Entrepreneurship, a pre-professional area. Special options are available during January Term.