How Data Helps Cities Achieve Vision Zero Safety Goals

Telematics can optimize smart transportation. Access to aggregate data allows cities to closely monitor traffic flows, understand the effects of new projects and speed reduction programs, assess the efficiency of traffic signals, map air quality and highlight hazardous intersections. All these tools help cities and municipalities better manage the overall transportation system.

by Jean Pilon-Bignell / September 3, 2019
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Telematics as a fleet management tool

Telematics technology that captures data wirelessly and in real-time is increasingly being used in municipal fleets to enhance vehicle efficiency and guide driver behavior. Traditionally used as a fleet management tool, a city or state fleet manager can gain insights on how to drive downstream productivity efficiency, optimize fleet operations such as maintenance and fuel spend analytics, institute and measure safety initiatives and automate regulatory compliance and reporting.

Geotab has approximately 1.6M connected vehicles across our customer base that touch almost every single road across North America hundreds of times a day. The data collected from these connected vehicles at aggregate provides valuable use cases and deep insights into smart city and transportation analytics for road networks.

Telematics as a Vision Zero tool

Vision Zero is a road safety initiative founded by the Swedish government that has successfully mobilized in Europe and now throughout the United States. Vision Zero’s focus to eliminate traffic fatalities and severe injuries entails all parts of the roadway system prioritizing safety. Municipal fleets of vehicles are an important part of this equation, whether they’re used to shovel snow, respond to fires and emergencies or allow city employees to drive on official business. Measuring these fleets on city streets can provide useful information toward Vision Zero safety goals, as well as other areas such as fuel efficiency and congestion management.

Leveraging telematics for safety initiatives

To help cities reach their Vision Zero goals, telematics can be used to encourage municipal drivers to practice safe driving behavior. By monitoring factors such as swerving, harsh braking, aggressive driving, rapid acceleration and the speed of the vehicle, compared to the posted road speed, fleet operators can provide driver training that targets specific problematic behaviors.

Safety use cases for fleet managers include:

  • Driver Scoring -to monitor driving behaviors at a very granular level based on swerving activities, harsh braking events, aggressive driving and acceleration behaviours. These allow you to ‘score’ your drivers based on different safety metrics.
  • Driver Coaching - based on the output of the driver scorecard you can assign different training programs to individual drivers that target very specific driving behaviors.
  • Accident Detection and Reconstruction - notification of an accident level event in any vehicle within your fleet, including those that are parked with the ignition off. Fleet managers can have insight into location of impact, severity of impact, what was happening before and after the accident, all of which allows you to dispatch first responders or take corrective action when needed.

Safer, smarter streets

Beyond its traditional use as a fleet management tool, telematics can optimize smart transportation. Access to aggregate data allows cities to closely monitor traffic flows, understand the effects of new projects and speed reduction programs, assess the efficiency of traffic signals, map air quality and highlight hazardous intersections. All these tools help cities and municipalities better manage the overall transportation system.

  • Traffic Flow- understanding average road speeds across the entire road network is valuable for traffic engineers. Many municipalities are also interested in understanding the effectiveness of different traffic calming initiatives implemented and whether it has achieved the desired result, in most cases a reduction in speed.
     
  • Intersection Traffic Flow- assessing the efficiency of traffic signals, as well as representation of the resulting safety at these intersections.
     
  • Air Quality Mapping- connected vehicles can be equipped with low cost air quality sensors and overlaid with emissions data to give a very accurate representation of air quality issues in an area.
     
  • Hazardous Driving Areas- the ability to assess high level driving characteristics and behaviors at aggregate in an entire jurisdiction allows for quick identification of specific hazardous driving areas.

Connected vehicles collecting and processing data at aggregate can support a regions Vision Zero goals by offering insightful data not only for fleet managers, but for municipalities. These deep insights provide visibility into the regions infrastructure and transportation network, which can be used to make informed decisions and increase overall safety.

NYC Vision Zero paves way to safer streets

The NYC Vision Zero action plan is an example of safety leadership and putting people first. New York City is aiming to become the “world’s safest big city.

Efforts have already made significant improvements. In the Vision Zero Year Four update, New York City reported a 28 percent reduction in traffic fatalities and 45 percent decrease in pedestrian fatalities since the start of the program in 2014.

To address its epidemic of traffic fatalities and injuries, New York City, which experiences about 250 traffic-related deaths and 4,000 non-fatal serious injuries per year or one traffic fatality or injury every two hours, implemented a city-wide Vision Zero Initiative. New York City has committed the use of every available tool to improve road safety, particularly, in how it is monitoring and managing the city’s vehicle fleet.

How is Vision Zero different from a safety program?

Vision Zero starts with the premise that traffic deaths are preventable, but that human beings will make mistakes and crashes will occur. This leads to developing traffic systems to lessen the severity of crashes instead of a focus on perfecting human behavior.

Vision Zero doesn't rely on a silver-bullet solution. Instead, it uses a multidisciplinary approach and techniques, including technology and a reliance on data-driven approaches, to achieve the goal of zero traffic fatalities or severe injuries.

To become a Vision Zero City, a municipality must meet four minimum standards, including:

  • Setting the clear goal of eliminating traffic fatalities and severe injuries.
  • Having the mayor publicly and officially commit to Vision Zero.
  • Putting a Vision Zero plan or strategy in place, having the commitment to do so within a clear time frame.
  • Engaging key city departments, including police, transportation, and public health.

Technology is a key part of New York’s Vision Zero program

In addition to redesigning streetscapes, enforcing traffic safety, and educating the public, New York City is looking at vehicle technology as part of their range of safety initiatives.

Telematics fits perfectly into Vision Zero because of its data-gathering and analysis capabilities.

As part of the city’s Vision Zero Initiative, the New York City Department of Citywide Administrative Services (DCAS) implemented a telematics program powered by Geotab.

Using the Geotab technology and platform, DCAS developed an operations and incident management system, Fleet Office Real-Time Tracking (FORT), to monitor real-time location and alerts from city fleet vehicles. FORT is used to tie many of the city’s safety initiatives, such as collision tracking, safe driving, and emergency management, into one easy- to-use system. With this telematics data, real-time key safety event information is presented to DCAS fleet managers and supervisors. This helps protect city drivers and to make NYC streets safer for bicyclists, pedestrians, and commercial and private vehicles.

In addition to implementing FORT, NYC developed a technology-focused Safe Fleet Transition Plan (SFTP) to support its Vision Zero initiative. The SFTP is a formalized set of best-practice vehicle safety technologies to prevent and mitigate crashes by making large city vehicles safer. The success of the SFTP depends on a cross-agency communication, agency readiness to adopt new safety technologies, and working closely with private industry.

In the plan, the NYC Department of Citywide Administrative Services (DCAS) presented a number of potential new fleet technologies, which were investigated and benchmarked by Together for Safer Roads and other agencies:

Why does it matter?

Deaths and injuries related to motor vehicle collisions continue to be a scourge around the world. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that worldwide, there are around 1.35 million deaths annually related to vehicle collisions; with another 20-50 million suffering non-fatal, but life-altering injuries. Treatment, productivity, and compensation expenses related to accidents can cost as much as 3 percent of a country’s gross domestic product (GDP) — for the U.S. alone that would translate to $624 billion annually, based the country’s 2018 GDP.

Grimly, the U.S. has the highest traffic fatality rate in the developed world — with large vehicles accounting for a disproportionately growing number of them, according to the National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO).

Even though large municipal vehicles, such as fire trucks and waste management vehicles, only make up 4 percent of U.S. fleet vehicles, they collectively account for 7 percent of all pedestrian, 11 percent of all bicyclist, and 12 percent of all car and light-truck fatalities.

Conclusion

There can be little argument that telematics is transforming the way fleets are being managed, making it more data-driven science than art.

But telematics is having wider impacts than just the management of fleet vehicles. Paired with the road-safety initiative Vision Zero, telematics is helping pave the way towards a fatality and serious-injury free future.

To learn more about Geotab's smart city insights, email: smartcity@geotab.com.

About the Author

Jean Pilon-Bignell, AVP Government Smart Cities at Geotab uses a unique combination of technical expertise and business acumen to develop innovative connected-vehicle, IoT, and smart city strategies


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