Accident With Fire Crews

Connected vehicles could detect road dangers before accidents happen

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Data collected from connected vehicles can be used to help identify dangerous stretches of road before anyone is killed or seriously injured on them, the RAC Foundation has said.

Connected vehicles can collect data including road and traffic conditions, emergency alerts and the behaviour of other drivers. They can also generate data about extreme manoeuvres from drivers – such as harsh braking – that is accurately geolocated to particular points on the road network.

Once acquired, this data can give highway engineers insights into which locations need to be looked at, such as those where there are repeated indications of emergency manoeuvres. This can also help identify the causes of these manoeuvres such as a hidden junction, regularly queueing traffic or even a damaged road surface.

Efforts can then be made to maintain the road or change its layout before a serious crash takes place.

The RAC Foundation also suggested that the data could be used to dynamically change digital signage and traffic lights for motorists in real time.

However, the study’s author – Andy Graham of White Willow Consulting – showed that many of the opportunities risk being delayed or missed completely if the issue of who pays for the use of such data is not quickly addressed.

“Services that improve road safety or reduce emissions deliver a societal benefit that is hard to recoup from a direct charge to drivers, in the same way road signs are not directly funded by the people relying on them. Hence, not all services have a clear, commercial revenue stream,” he said.

“This isn’t just about a plea for funding – it is about the way funding could move away from a myriad of trials toward connected-vehicle data becoming a routine, integral part of improved highway management. This should include a move from funding further away autonomy to delivering better roads from better connectivity today.”

Steve Gooding, director of the RAC Foundation, said: “Connected vehicles … are routinely generating data, access to which could identify those sites where drivers, and indeed cyclists, might be forced to brake harshly or steer violently because the road layout is throwing up unexpected and dangerous situations.

“When this pattern of behaviour is seen repeatedly at certain locations, it means highways authorities can check whether they need to change road layouts or manage risk – by changing the speed limit, for example – before someone gets hurt.

“The possibilities thrown up by connected vehicles go far beyond road safety, but while many individual local authorities are exploring options it must be for government to take the lead nationally if we are ever to move beyond showcase pathfinder projects to widespread, or universal, application.

“While many of the good ideas that warrant trialling may offer purely commercial opportunities, others are likely to require some public funding.”

US transportation secretary Pete Buttigieg recently expressed concerns about the use of connected vehicles, including the possibility that countries such as China could use the data collected for espionage purposes. The sensors on such vehicles include lidar, radar, cameras and AI that can all be used to collect data on citizens and infrastructure.

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