Could Big Data help make cities safer?

Reports | Technology | Transport & Distribution

It is often only after accidents have occurred that particular junctions or stretches of road are identified as problematic for drivers, cyclists or pedestrians.

Now Ford has come up with a means by which big data could potentially help cities identify locations which, if nothing is done, are most likely to be the scene of future traffic incidents. To help find the answer, Ford Smart Mobility, spent the last year recording 1 million kilometres of vehicle and driver behaviour in and around London.

The company tracked vehicle journeys in the city and logged highly detailed driving data from driving events such as braking, the severity of that braking, and even where hazard warning lights were applied. This helped to identify “near-misses”. Ford then cross-referenced this information against existing accident reports and built an algorithm to determine the likelihood of where future incidents might occur.

“We believe our insights have the potential to benefit millions of people. Even very small changes could make a big difference – maybe cutting back a tree that has obscured a road sign – whether in terms of traffic flow, road safety or efficiency,” said Jon Scott, project lead at City Data Solutions, Ford Smart Mobility.

This idea is just one opportunity identified in the Ford City Data Report that was launched today by Ford Smart Mobility at the Financial Times Future of Transport conference in London. The report, using data that was obtained and analysed with the consent of participants, took its findings from more than 15,000 days of vehicle use, from 160 connected vans in the city. The fleet of vans covered more than 1 million kilometres, the equivalent of 20 times around the earth, and delivered 500 million data points.

Ford is committed to delivering smart vehicles for a smart world – and each vehicle in the study was equipped with a simple plug-in device that recorded the journey data and then sent it to the cloud for analysis. Data scientists from Ford’s Global Data Insight and Analytics team were then able to analyse the information through an interactive dashboard. This technology could be applied in any road environment, not just in cities.

The report also investigated other opportunities, such as how scheduling delivery van journeys for earlier in the day, before peak times, could benefit all road users, and how using journey data could help to identify the best locations for electric vehicle charging points.

“The Ford City Data Report is a showcase of what we at Ford can do with connected vehicle data, smart infrastructure, and our analytical capabilities. We are calling on cities to work with us to collectively solve problems that they can become even better places to live and work in,” commented Sarah-Jayne Williams, director, Ford Smart Mobility, Ford of Europe.

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