autonomous vehicles, car crashes, Collisions, Crashes and Collisions, Distracted Driving, driverless technology, Driverless Vehicles, NHTSA, Road Safety Research, Self-Driving Cars, Technology, traffic fatalities, Traffic Safety

Defining safe behavior standards for autonomous vehicles

Google_self-driving_car

The World Health Organization predicts that by 2020, in an average month, more than 150,000 people a month will be killed in traffic accidents around the world.  Around 90% of crashes are caused by human error – so will driverless cars reduce the number of incidences that lead to too many fatalities on the road?

In 2015, Nevada led the way in passing legislation regarding self-driving cars at the state level. Since then, several other states including California, Hawaii, Florida, Arizona and Oklahoma have proposed similar legislation to set standards for regulating self-driving cars. The problem with passing laws that regulate safety standards for autonomous vehicles (AVs) lies in not having a consistent standard defining “safe driving” in terms of how an AV can understand robotic rules of the road – every company that has forayed into the field is writing their standards in a different way. That is why some in the industry think the time has come to devise a standardized set of rules for how AVs should behave in different situations.

A team of researchers at Mobileye, a provider of AV technology, published a paper on a framework, “Responsibility-Sensitive Safety”, that outlines mathematical rules for various activities performed by AVs – lane-changing, pulling out into traffic and driving cautiously when pedestrians or other vehicles are partially occluded, etc. The framework covers all 37 pre-crash scenarios in the accident database maintained by National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). It is hoped that this framework would be adopted as the basis of an open industry standard. A similar proposal, “Open Autonomous Safety”, was put forth by Voyage, another player in the AV field, that defines the correct, safe behavior for vehicles in a range of circumstances, including pedestrians being in the road, nearby vehicles reversing and arrival at a four-way stop. In addition, Voyage has made its internal safety procedures, materials and test code all open source, with the aim of providing a foundational safety resource in the industry.

Dr. Bryant Walker Smith, assistant professor in the School of Law and School of Engineering at the University of South Carolina, was interviewed about how self-driving cars can change the way people travel.

bryansmithred

Professor Smith welcomes the proposals from Mobileye and Voyage, but warns that it is too soon for regulators to “calcify dynamic conversations that are fundamentally technical in nature”. Researcher predict it will take years rather than months for the industry to cohere around a standard, but are optimistic it will eventually happen because discussions are already under way and because many people working in the field of autonomous vehicles are recent recruits from academia, who consider sharing and open-sourcing to be second nature.

 

car crashes, Collisions, Crashes and Collisions, Distracted Driving, gesture control, Road Safety Research, Technology, Texting and Driving

Ending Distracted Driving Awareness Month With A View Toward Technology

Any activity that places either visual or manual demands on a driver substantially increases the risk of a crash. This includes texting, browsing, dialing a hand-held phone or engaging in conversation either with passengers or on a hands-free device that makes people react badly to hazards.

hand point The growing sales of luxury cars with advanced safety and comfort features have fueled the development of the automotive “gesture-recognition” market, expected to surpass $13 billion worldwide by 2024. Gesture control not only makes using various in-built systems easier, but also reduces the probability of causing a distraction-related collision by minimizing the need to take one’s eyes away from the road. But will gesture control really eliminate the dangers associated with the use of hands-free devices aimed at keeping driver’s eyes on the road?  

Consider a vehicle being driven at 40 mph and the driver needs to adjust the volume of the radio, change the channel or look at GPS, that might take the driver’s eyes away for about 1.2 seconds. A car traveling at that speed will cover more than 20 meters in 1.2 seconds, opening opportunities for a mishap just waiting to happen. Now combine this scenario with the multitude of features available in vehicles today such as infotainment systems in addition to the alarming rise in the use of mobile phones while driving. 

The idea behind gesture control is that instead of pressing a button, a driver waves his or her hand, points or otherwise gestures. So even with gesture control, the driver is still taking one hand off the wheel. Plus, the driver still has to look at the device to see which option to pick, so the driver’s eyes are still off the road.

Distraction happens in three forms – manual, visual and cognitive. With gesture control, the manual and visual elements are still at play; the crucial cognitive element of distraction does not change the nature of the cognitive distraction at all. It is essential for road safety that drivers think about driving – not about controlling the  newest “infotainment systems” that offer seamless connectivity with smartphones and other wireless devices.  Most infotainment systems are still operated by buttons and warrant a diversion of the driver’s attention, even if for just a little more than a second.

 

Car insurance, driving behaviors, FICO, Speeding, Technology, telematics, Uncategorized

Telematics technology target car insurance industry

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Tax season is right around the corner! Taxes = money; money = credit scores; credit scores + big data now = how driving habits can predict the types of premiums insurance companies can charge for coverage. FICO, the data analytics company focused on credit scoring services, has expanded its commercial interests to rating drivers through telematics technology – rating a driver’s acceleration, braking, cornering, speeding, cellphone distractions and other behavioral data that can be captured and turned into a FICO driving score via a smartphone app.

FICO isn’t the only game in town in utilizing telematics technology to target the automobile insurance industry. INSURETHEBOX is the UK’s leading telematics car insurer, having collected over a billion miles of telematics data since their launch in 2010. insurethebox pioneered the use of telematics-based car insurance and shaken up the established car insurance market.

Telematics is an interdisciplinary field that encompasses telecommunications, vehicular technologies, road transportation, road safety, electrical engineering (sensors, instrumentation, wireless communications, etc.), and computer science (multimedia, Internet, etc.). Telematics can monitor a vehicle by combining a GPS system with on-board diagnostics, making it possible to record – and map – exactly where a car is and how fast it is traveling, and cross reference that with how a car is behaving internally. Add communication over a 3G network and telematics can be used to send both data and communications back and forth between a vehicle and a central management system. Using sensors in cars and a trackside wireless network, Formula One teams have been using telematics for years to see exactly where opponents are on the racetrack.

 

Both FICO driving scores and insurethebox are designed to give people a way to improve their driving skills through feedback, based on the premise that safe driving leads to rewards and lower premiums. What will be most damaging to the score you might ask?  In the same way that your credit score gets dinged by bad financial behavior such as late bill payments and high debt, your driving score will get dinged by bad driving habits that could lead to a crash.  Unlike traditional credit histories that can be ordered, the FICO driving scores are still not downloadable.

The things that will ding your score the hardest will be your cellphone use while driving (including whether you touch your phone, text, Snapchat, or even use Bluetooth.) Speeding, hard-braking, whether you take hairpin turns, and have a heavy foot on the gas pedal will also be hard on your score. The program will also provide a “gamification or shamification” rating, showing how you compare to other drivers in your company, family or neighborhood.

 

Although companies have expressed interest in using the score, consumers are not enthused about letting an insurance company put a device in their car to monitor their driving habits in exchange for discounts. This was made apparent in a 2016 survey conducted by the Pew Research Center. In addition to auto insurance companies applying these scores to calculating premiums,  life insurance companies could follow suit, as could car rental agencies in applying the scores to their rates; commercial drivers might be rated for employment risks based on the scores.

Credit scores plus big data influencing driving behaviors – now that’s an interesting thought to share with budding entrepreneurs!

 

 

autonomous vehicles, driverless technology, Self-Driving Cars, Technology

Autonomous Vehicles Readiness Index – Assessing openness and preparedness for autonomous vehicles worldwide

KPMG_Autonomous_Vehicles Readiness Index
Autonomous Vehicles Readiness Index – Assessing Openness and Preparedness for Autonomous Vehicles Worldwide, https://assets.kpmg.com/content/dam/kpmg/xx/pdf/2018/01/avri.pdf

Self-driving cars are beginning to show up on public roads, in public policy and on the horizon of drivers’ consciousness, and have made substantial progress in creating a new economic sector in countries throughout the world.Technology is transforming the transportation industry, including automobiles, and the pace of innovation is accelerating; It will affect us all. A recent report from KPMG International explores the readiness of countries around the world “on the cusp of a transport revolution”.

The top global leaders in the race to bring self-driving cars – the so-called autonomous driving vehicles – to city streets and highways were determined by measuring public policy initiatives, technology and innovation fostered; infrastructure built, and consumer acceptance cultivated. The number one country? The Netherlands. Rounding out the top five are Singapore, USA, Sweden and the United Kingdom, with Germany, Canada, the United Arab Emirates, New Zealand, and South Korea comprising the rest of the top 10.

Making up the list’s lower half are Japan, Austria, France, Australia, Spain, China, Brazil, Russia, Mexico, and India.

Complete rankings, detailed breakdowns of each country’s strong suits and shortcomings, and more information on how the research was compiled and conducted can be found in the report, Autonomous Vehicles Readiness Index – Assessing Openness and Preparedness for Autonomous Vehicles Worldwide, https://assets.kpmg.com/content/dam/kpmg/xx/pdf/2018/01/avri.pdf

Crowdsourcing, Holiday Travel, Road Hazards, Technology, Traffic Congestion

Technology and crowdsourcing alleviate traffic headaches

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Navigation devices + human collaboration + real-time information = the formula for helping drivers share relevant and timely commute-related information

Are you looking for the cheapest gas in town? Need to reroute your travel because of heavy construction or other road hazards? Where can you recharge your electric car? Are there car-sharing or bike-sharing opportunities in your neighborhood? Technology and social networking enable commuters to share relevant and timely commute-related information and answer these perplexing questions with a swipe of a button.

Technology also plays an important role in the smart cities movement toward reducing vehicle emissions, using services and acting in new intelligent ways in transportation and communications to reduce travel time of vehicles and prevents traffic jams. OpenStreetMap is a European project that adds traffic lights, sensors, routes and vehicle flows emphasizing local knowledge.

 

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Smart Mobility in Cities with Evolutionary Algorithms Source: Daniel Stolfi, University of Malaga (Spain)

The “Red Swarm – Smart Mobility in Cities” study presents an approach to regulating traffic by using an on-line system controlled by an Evolutionary Algorithm. The study proposes to use computational spots with WiFi connectivity located at traffic lights (the Red Swarm), which are used to suggest alternative individual routes to vehicles.

 

Back in the U.S., researchers are studying the impact looking for a parking spot has on greenhouse gas emissions and fuel usage. A study by Donald Shoup, Distinguished Professor of  Urban Planning at UCLA, reported that drivers looking for parking spaces rack up more mileage each year than a person normally needs for a long-distance trip. According to the study, drivers in search of a parking spot around the UCLA (California) campus clocked around 950,000 travel miles, 730 tons of greenhouse gas emissions, and 47,000 gallons of gas. The numbers are extraordinary, and particularly when you extrapolate out to consider the impact in a big city. The author asserts that if each parking space had a sensor, to provide drivers with a virtual picture of all the available spaces, emissions would be reduced, congestion would be eased as drivers could go straight to the free spots, and local authorities would have real-time data to help them utilize space better in the future.

In 2012, the New Cities Foundation released the results of its study,  “Connected Commuting”, to help cities better understand how social networking among commuters can enhance the overall commuting experience and improve traffic management. The study was conducted in the city of San Jose, California, in partnership with Ericsson, the City of San Jose’s Department of Transportation and the University of California’s Mobile Millennium team from the Center for Information Technology Research in the Interest of Society (CITRIS) utilizing two of the most popular commuter smartphone applications, Waze and Roadify.   Connected Commuting attempted to determine how real-time information sharing between commuters could influence the development of new technologies, policies and other innovations that improve commuting in metropolitan areas throughout the world.

The daily commute is one of the most painful parts of urban life. This is true in most cities around the world, rich and poor, old and new. Connected Community 

Urban traffic and commuting difficulties are problems that plague not only the individual driver, but adversely affect an entire country’s infrastructure. The study found that more than $100 billion is lost in the U.S. due to wasted fuel, carbon emissions and lost opportunity costs each year. It also reported that delays in the cost commuters an average of 34 hours a year.  That’s time you don’t have to spend in traffic.

Drunk Driving, DUI/DWI/OWI/OWAI, Field Sobriety Tests, Technology

Laser technology pegs drunk drivers

infrared laser thermometer in hand
Laser Technology designed to check a driver’s blood-alcohol level from afar

Gotta love technology. Researchers at the Military University of Technology in Poland have come up with a laser-based device that can measure blood-alcohol levels through a car window. It is the same technology, referred to as standoff detection, the military uses to find weapons, hazardous materials and explosives and where lasers and optical techniques are of critical importance for their ability to passively and actively probe threats near and far. Standoff detection can take place at distances from several centimeters up to a kilometer.

How does it work? According to an article in Smithsonian.com:

A laser emitter and receiver sit on one side of the road, while a mirror sits on the other. As a car passes, the emitter sends a laser beam through the vehicle’s window and bounces it off the mirror. The beam is sent at a wavelength that can be absorbed by any alcohol vapor—so, any power loss equates to the presence of booze in the car. If there is no alcohol, there is no absorption. The higher the concentration of the alcohol inside the car, the lower the power measured, because the beam is absorbed by the alcohol.

This laser technology could make checkpoints a thing of the past. But first, there are a few legal hurdles to overcome, including securing a ruling on whether the technology can meet the reasonable doubt test officers must have to pull over a suspected drunk driver. Researchers of the technology must also fix challenging bugs in the system, for example the device giving a false alarm if only the passenger is drunk, and failing to give a reading if the window is open.