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Dashcam Data Zeroes in on Highway Work Zones and More

The Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada is using dashcam footage gathered from ride-hailing drivers to gain added insights into the status of the hundreds of highway work zones in the Las Vegas region.

The Regional Transportation officials in Las Vegas are using dashcam footage gathered from ride-hailing drivers to gain added insights into the status of the hundreds of highway work zones.
Ride-hailing vehicles in Las Vegas are gathering up more than just visiting gamblers. Some of the cars are also taking in crucial information around highway work zones, data that helps transportation planners improve both the management of the projects and the safety of work zones.

Dashcam technology mounted on vehicles — largely cars driven by Uber, Lyft and other professional drivers — sends highway imaging to the Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada (RTC), where officials can monitor the often hundreds of work zones across the Las Vegas valley.

The data from the participating dashcams are managed by Nexar, a technology partner for RTC, to be viewed and analyzed on the company’s CityStream platform.

“Not only do we have devices out in the field, telling us where [work zones] are, we also have drivers roaming around with the dashcams, all the time, locating cones, locating orange signs, locating arrow boards and then they’re sending their location information, and even still-frame images of the work zones onto Nexar CityStream platform,” explained Julia Uravich, project engineer for RTC, discussing the project during a CoMotion LIVE webinar this week.

Images from the dashcams are anonymized and made available on the CityStream platform, which are then made available to organizations like RTC “to be able to have a digital twin of their cities,” said Brandon Long, director of public sector and smart city innovation at Nexar, during the webinar.

The data is scrubbed of personal identifiable information and license plates, said Long, adding any faces are blurred, and the company does not share its data with law enforcement.

“It’s just not a realm we feel comfortable getting into,” said Long.

“We’re really choosing to focus on infrastructure, and with that, making sure that we keep our end-consumers’ privacy in mind at all times,” he added.

Nexar is involved in similar pilots in Los Angeles, Ohio and Maricopa County, Ariz., and was selected for the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) grants in Dallas and Pinellas County, Fla. The move marks a new dimension in the power of crowd-sourced data to be used by public-sector agencies as they look for innovative approaches to managing not only work sites, but the condition of roads, or the management of curb areas. Nexar partnered with the company BlyncSync, which has a product known as Payvr, which identifies and scores paint lines in roads, said Long, in follow-up comments to Government Technology.

“This is an important use-case as we all work towards a world that includes autonomous vehicles,” said Long. “Future detections in the works include pothole detection, road pavement quality scoring and shoulder analysis.”

A challenge sometimes encountered with large caches of crowd-sourced data and images, said Uravich, can be information overload. The RTC wants all of those pics winnowed down to “meaningful data, the meaningful images that we care about,” she added.

“Because someone who opens up CityStream and sees 1,000 images from one work zone, that’s great. But gosh, that’s a lot of information,” said Uravich. “So, we need to figure out a way to limit it to just the most important, meaningful information to keep everyone efficient and doing their jobs quickly.”
Skip Descant writes about smart cities, the Internet of Things, transportation and other areas. He spent more than 12 years reporting for daily newspapers in Mississippi, Arkansas, Louisiana and California. He lives in downtown Yreka, Calif.