DEKRA Award: Scoring Points with Safety

The DEKRA Award 2021 was bestowed on four organizations for their top achievements in the name of safety. In the “Startups” category, the young Swiss company Lakera makes artificial intelligence (AI) safer.

Four categories, four winners: the DEKRA Award honours good ideas and solutions. Photo: DEKRA

For many years, expert organization DEKRA has joined forces with WirtschaftsWoche magazine to present the DEKRA Award in the categories safety on the road, at work, and at home. The award honors companies that offer top performances in the name of safety. In 2019, DEKRA added the “Startups” category. The 2021 winner in this category is Lakera AI AG from Zurich.

The young company competed for the title against two competitors in an exciting online pitch. However, a mere three minutes was enough for David Haber, founder and CEO of Lakera, to successfully present his validation platform for AI. “We’ve developed a software solution that identifies vulnerabilities in companies’ AI systems,” he described the approach. After all, AI doesn’t work without trust. Automated driving cars must function flawlessly, just as AI for new medical devices mustn’t discriminate against individual groups of people. “AI must therefore be objectively verifiable. Not only for quality management in companies, but also for external audits,” David Haber explained in a recent podcast.

Lakera checks AI applications for reliability and security

According to him, “we can check many things with our software”. At its core, it’s all about companies being able to manage the risks and vulnerabilities of AI. “It’s currently impossible to manage and check AI from the black box.” Does the AI meet the set quality standards? At the moment, that’s something only experts are able to verify. Error prevention, especially in safety-critical applications, plays a central role in AI. Only a handful of companies are able to systematically validate AI at all. Tesla, for example, has many millions of vehicles on the road collecting data that can then be analyzed. But the vast majority of companies find it difficult to validate AI.

Lakera founder David Haber (left), CEO, and Matthias Kraft, CPO. Photo: DEKRA

David Haber, on the other hand, is counting on his validation platform, which provides the data companies need for internal quality management, external testing, and certification. It makes it possible to systematically test the conditions under which AI works and when it makes mistakes. All of this is combined with a risk assessment of the system before its deployment. And of course, this knowledge can also be used to shorten development times. David Haber’s greatest wish is that companies not only passively accompany AI from simple internet technologies to security-relevant applications, but can also increasingly use it actively for their own benefit.

The winners of the classic DEKRA Award categories

In the award category “Safety in Transport”, the AIT Austrian Institute of Technology GmbH was delighted to receive the winning title. Its Mobility Observation Box (MOB) makes it possible to measure the safety of traffic infrastructures according to objective criteria and thus make them comparable. After data collection, machine learning is used to automatically recognize and classify different groups of road users such as pedestrians, cyclists, cars, trucks, or e-scooters, evaluate their traffic behavior, and create a basis for targeted improvement measures. Learn more about the winner of the category “Safety in Transport” here.

In the “Safety at Work” category, the jury was impressed by Ottobock SE & Co. KGaA’s concept for its “Paexo”, which are exoskeletons for optimized safety and ergonomics at the workplace in an industrial context. Ottobock’s goal is to relieve the burden on people with demanding activities, such as overhead work, and to create healthier working conditions through exoskeletons. Exoskeletons measurably reduce physical strain, creating healthier working conditions. The innovative concept won the category and opens up a new product field for many other applications. Learn more about the winner of the category “Safety at Work” here.

BAG Mehr Sicherheit für Kinder e.V. won the “Safety at Home” category. The award went to the interactive 3D application “Virtual Giant Kitchen”. The virtual solution for PC, smartphone, and VR glasses shrinks users to the size of a 1.5-year-old child. From this changed perspective, various accident risks can be discovered and minimized. This is important because the kitchen is the number one accident blackspot in the home. Learn more about the winner of the category “Safety at Home” here.

“The winners have impressed us with ideas that are groundbreaking in their disciplines,” emphasizes Stefan Kölbl, Chairman of the Board of Management of DEKRA e.V. and DEKRA SE. “This year’s DEKRA Award shows: Digitization, artificial intelligence, and machine learning open up new possibilities for more safety. The high number of participants and the submitted concepts’ excellent quality prove the extraordinary relevance of the DEKRA Award as a platform for safety solutions of the digital future.” By the way: The DEKRA Award will be presented again this year.

You can find more information about the DEKRA Award here.

Grüner Trenner Infokasten Box Kasten

Three questions for Dr. Kerim Galal, who is responsible for the future topics of strategy, innovation, and digitization at DEKRA.

Lakera AI AG, a young Swiss company, won the DEKRA Award in the “Startups” category. Why is it so important to be able to manage the risk and vulnerabilities of artificial intelligence, as Lakera makes possible?

Dr. Kerim Galal. Photo: DEKRA

For many of today’s AI-based systems, the more general the deployment scenario, the more important the sensible balance of the technologically unavoidable trade-off between absolute flawlessness and general usability. That’s why it’s necessary to identify, monitor, and test AI technologies before and during operation. Only in this way can we avoid errors with sufficient certainty and avert financial and personnel damage in the context of society as a whole. The goal must be to ensure a high level of safety on the road, at work, and at home, even in the emerging age of AI.

Why do startups in particular often develop groundbreaking ideas? Just think of TikTok, WeWork, or Snapchat.

Many startup founders identify a need in the digital ecosystem and focus all resources on the conceptual solution and its scalability. Innovative power requires speed and large degrees of freedom as well as a fail-fast-learn-fast attitude. This is exactly why partnerships with startups are so relevant for established companies. Through them, visionary foresight and impetus from the startup world can be combined with existing companies’ scaling and implementation power.

How does DEKRA itself benefit from young startups?

Collaboration with partners – and especially startups – is a key cornerstone of our digital strategy. With its in-house innovation unit DEKRA DIGITAL, DEKRA is already developing services and products in new digital fields such as cybersecurity, AI, and future mobility. Connecting with startups helps us jointly solve technical challenges and close existing technology or competence gaps, as well as conquer new markets by developing business models together.

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