data June 2018

How driverless vehicles will use big data to make cities smarter

As roads become increasingly congested around the world, enhancing driver safety has become a priority for vehicle manufacturers, as well as governments when it comes to planning future smart cities.

According to a study by the World Bank that was funded by Bloomberg Philanthropies, in 2015, more than 1.25 million people were killed on the road, with a further 20 to 50 million seriously impacted.

In spite of better roads, more safety features and, in many countries, stricter punishments for those guilty of dangerous driving offences, the global average number of people killed on the roads each year per 100,000 has remained almost the same at just over 18 since the turn of the millennium.

Amplifying driver and passenger safety has been recognised as sound business by car manufacturers for decades, with the likes of Saab having first focused on the safety features of its cars in advertising campaigns more than a quarter of a century ago.

However, safeguarding road-users whilst vehicle numbers continue to proliferate remains a massive ongoing challenge.

The role of data

If the rate of road deaths and injuries is to be reduced in a new age of transportation in the future, data will play a central role.

Peter Hancock is Provost Distinguished Research Professor in the Department of Psychology and the Institute for Simulation and Training, as well as at the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering and the Department of Industrial Engineering and Management Systems at the University of Central Florida. He is also an affiliated scientist of the Humans and Automation Laboratory at MIT, a Research Associate of the University of Michigan Transport Research Institute and an expert on the use of data in vehicle safety.

Aside from the many “standard databases and several ‘naturalistic’ driving studies”, he says, almost all new vehicles are able to collect and can emit “reams of sophisticated data about both its system’s status, but also about its track over the ground”, with the latter providing “an ocean of valuable data, assuming it can be accessed and packaged”.

According to Hancock, the prospect in the future of every vehicle being able to gather data about its driver's habits on the road in real-time, all the time is “both feasible and probable”.

He adds: “The issue will not be data per se but distilling the appropriate information at the appropriate time. Real-time, live world, nanoscale data is almost upon us. In some realms, for example, race driving, it already is.

“It will not be the collection that is the barrier, but the meaningful interpretation. This is the ladder from data to information to understanding to insight. There is no necessary assurance that any step in this ladder is inevitable – and it’s the insight we want.”

Driverless vehicles

The challenge, though, is likely to become even more complex with the widespread introduction of driverless vehicles over the coming years.

“I think we need to focus on the transition to automation and especially the effects of inter-mixed roads where there are mostly human drivers, but increasingly more automated vehicles,” Hancock says. “We have little real understanding of the implications of this mix – and we certainly need such data to assure safety gains which are being promised are actually delivered.”

In terms of the implications of the introduction of autonomous vehicles over the coming years, Hancock believes that to share the road safely, people and machines need to understand each other much more intimately than they do now.

“In the exploration of necessarily unpredictable circumstances using innovations in technology, we are virtually bound to experience adverse events and even trends,” Hancock adds.

“The insight is required to distil whether our policies are sending us in the right direction. It requires the unseen hand of the market to clasp the seen hand of regulation, but this seems unlikely in our present, volatile social conditions.”

To find out more about how GeoSpock can help companies to manage data now and in the coming years, contact us here.


World Bank report:

Back to GeoSpock Blog