The road to zero traffic injuries and fatalities
Only 10% of Pittsburghers walk and 2 - 4 % cycle on their daily commute. Still, they were involved in 40% of fatal collisions in 2015 (BikePHG, 2016). According to the PennDOT, an accident is rarely caused by dangerous behaviors of pedestrians and cyclists, but rather a result of aggressive driving or inattentiveness of the driver. Investment in improving pedestrian and cycling infrastructure and increasing vehicle safety standards will have a large effect on improving road safety for all and will bring Pittsburgh closer to zero traffic fatalities. Pedestrian and cyclist friendly driving attitudes also encourages more people to walk and cycle in Pittsburgh in the long run.
The slogans of many self-driving car developers promise zero road incidents. We think that this should not only be a promise but a requirement made by cities and their citizens if we are to replace the human driver with artificial intelligence. In fact, we can start developing intelligent safety measures already today, before reaching full autonomy.
Humanising autonomy today - an intelligent driver alert system
We are developing a pedestrian intent prediction platform to increase the safety of vulnerable road users (i.e., pedestrians, cyclists, people with disabilities, the elderly, and children) in dense, complex urban environments. With common dashboard cameras, we can provide the driver with intelligent warnings about cyclists and pedestrians in their path. Our software combines deep learning and behavioral science to analyze video footage, recognize people, and predict their intents. Are they about to cross the street?; Did they see the bus?; Is this person distracted, perhaps on the phone?.
Adopting our pedestrian intent prediction platform in Buses and HGVs could increase safety for pedestrians and cyclists while avoiding driver cognitive overload. This platform will accomplish the work that more cameras, mirrors, and sensors would do, but in a more accurate, seamless and efficient way without overwhelming or further distracting the driver. If anything, our technology will ensure that the driver can remain alert and attentive on the road, while benefiting from accurate and advanced detection technology at blind spots.
We want to make intelligent safety standards for vehicles an integral part of future mobility. While road space allocation is renegotiated and at the same time becoming more convoluted with new mobility options, the vehicle’s awareness of more vulnerable traffic participants should be enhanced - from “people watching out for vehicles” to “vehicles watching out for people”.
In the scope of the Ford City of Tomorrow Challenge, we can integrate our software and cameras in buses running through central Pittsburgh. The project will bring insight into near-term and long-term measures to make vehicles safer and understand behaviors of people around the vehicle (when do people feel comfortable passing?; Why did that person not see the bus and what can we do to change that?; How does the driver’s driving style change?). This information will be valuable for urban policy development in the face of changing vehicle technology. Testing and developing a vehicle safety standard and driver alert system can help the Pittsburgh Department of Mobility and Infrastructure (DOMI) achieve their goal of zero deaths and serious injuries on the city’s streets.