Transportation Department seeks to enhance highway safety with new pilot programs

The U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) recently launched two pilot programs that aim to revolutionize how the department uses traffic crash data, vehicle operation data, and crowd-sourced traffic hazard data to enhance overall highway safety.

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Derek Kan, the undersecretary for policy at USDOT, announced the initiative at the Transportation Research Board Conference on Jan. 8. The pilot programs will integrate established data streams with metadata generated by GPS-enabled devices and a crowd-sourced app in an effort to enhance transportation analysis and safety.

“Advances in data science have the potential to transform the department’s approach to safety research and provide insights that can help improve highway safety,” Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao said.

One pilot program will incorporate existing crash data with anonymous data on highway travel speeds that are collected by GPS-enabled devices and transmitted at five-minute intervals. By assessing metadata on prevailing operating speeds, the program aims to provide insight into how speed differentials and highway design characteristics impact the prevalence of crashes.

The second pilot project will use an app called “Waze” to determine if reliable information on traffic hazards and conditions can be provided by a crowdsourcing application. USDOT will evaluate the likelihood of crashes based on hazards reported through the crowd-sourced Waze platform.