Can a connected city stop car crashes?

Smart transportation systems will play a key role in shaping the future of mobility. Here’s how Ford is leading the charge.

Watch on YouTube
In partnership with Ford

One of the largest automotive makers in the world is ushering in the future of mobility, using artificial intelligence to help cities prevent traffic collisions and build smart transportation systems.

In the U.S., traffic crashes are the leading cause of death for people under the age of 54. Globally, they’re responsible for taking over a million lives each year, and the economic consequences are severe. In 2010, the total value of societal harm from automobile crashes was $836 billion in the U.S. alone.

A treasure trove of data on vehicles and driver behavior, Ford Motor Company is recognizing its unique potential to make a big difference in cities’ road safety. Its new tool, known as Safety Insights, synchronizes data from multiple sources using an advanced analytics methodology to help cities uncover areas of concern, limit crashes, and ultimately, save lives. 

Building Smart Transportation Systems

Intelligent transportation systems will play a key role in the future of mobility, and Ford is leading the charge. The Safety Insights platform, available through Streetlight, uses machine learning to help city decision makers shift their strategy from reactive to proactive.

“Vehicles that have an embedded cellular modem within them that’s activated,” Cal Coplai explains, “that’s capturing and transmitting data about what is happening as that vehicle moves around.” Coplai leads the team working on Safety Insights, which draws together crash data, proprietary vehicle data, and traffic volume data to identify potentially dangerous patterns.

The team calls these patterns “hotspots” – areas of roads that have more crashes than expected and more “near misses” (vehicle events such as harsh braking, excessive acceleration events, traction control issues, lane departures, and forward collision warnings). The near misses give users an inside look at where crashes are most likely to take place.

With this information, city planners can take a more proactive approach to understanding traffic safety issues, and make decisions with sharper foresight. In an organized interface, they can dig deeper into the cause of the issues and begin planning for solutions.

The tool also displays a list of safety countermeasures to choose from, things like adding pedestrian crosswalks, changing the signal timing at intersections, or widening bike lanes. City planners can then simulate different countermeasures and compare the ROI of each. It’s smart transportation planning, made easy.

Smart Planning in Ann Arbor, Michigan

Ford put Safety Insights to the test by piloting it in the bustling town of Ann Arbor, Michigan. Ford’s team partnered with transportation authorities in Ann Arbor to address the city’s areas of concern and help identify hotspots.

Ann Arbor is home to an expansive hospital system and the University of Michigan, which brings thousands of college students to its streets annually. With pedestrian crashes on the rise, safety is a top priority for transportation planners.

In order to build smart transportation systems, a holistic approach must be taken. Justine Johnson, a mobility strategist at Ford, says, “We have to really look at safety not just from the perspective of the person who’s in the vehicle but also everything else that’s outside of the vehicle.”

Using Safety Insights, Ann Arbor’s city planners were able to bring data from multiple sources to life. The tool enabled them to combine crash data from police reports with Ford’s connected vehicle data, which revealed specific roads and intersections that have a higher frequency of crashes as well as near misses.

This extra layer of detail helped planners visualize Ann Arbor’s transportation system as a whole and better understand local drivers’ behavior. They’re now able to use all of the data to effectively prioritize their efforts to improve road safety.

The actionable insights that come from Ford’s new tool have already shown promise to help save city planners time and money. Following its successful piloting in Ann Arbor, Safety Insights expanded and is now available to all U.S. cities.

Through Safety Insights, Ford is using advanced technology to provide cities with smart, transportation planning solutions that improve the lives of their citizens. Now, transportation professionals can make data-driven decisions to improve road safety much faster, saving lives in the process.

Subscribe to Freethink for more great stories