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How the City of Chicago and Arity will work together to reduce vehicular accidents and ultimately save lives around the world

David D’Silva · June 19, 2018 · 4 min read
Arity partners with the City of Chicago to make transportation smarter, safer and more useful for everyone in our backyard.

It is about pride and caring. It is about passion and commitment. It is about where we live. Arity was conceived in Chicago. Every day we peddle, drive, walk, ride and roll into our office on the eighth floor of the Merchandise Mart on the Chicago Riverwalk to create new solutions that will make our transportation system smarter, safer, and more efficient.

Which is why all of us here at Arity are thrilled to use our combination of driving behavior data and predictive analytics in partnership with the Chicago Department of Transportation to collaborate on its Vision Zero initiative. This is a uniquely personal moment for us — to make a real impact on the city where we live and work— so we are very proud to be able to help contribute to this ambitious and vital effort to improve the safety and efficiency of Chicago’s streets and how we can leverage our findings to other cities around the globe.

We Can’t Wait – Changing Behavior is the Path to Safer Roads Now

Until personal and commercial vehicles are fully autonomous, improving roadway safety is ultimately about encouraging better behaviors by drivers through the design of built environments (speed bumps to slow traffic) or through personalized awareness (like electronic speed signs that give feedback). Throughout the history of city planning, the effect of these interventions on driving behavior had to be inferred or assumed, with planning and policy professionals often having to estimate the expected impact. With the gradual deployment of sensors and cameras throughout our transportation infrastructure as well as the increasing ubiquity of smart phones, we now have the real-time capability to directly observe changes in behavior, at both the macro and micro level. This has allowed us to formulate and test hypotheses on how to improve driver safety, with the ultimate goal of reducing and eventually eliminating the occurrence of serious or fatal accidents.

Crashes are akin to perfect storms — they are highly variable and very difficult to predict, and a “great” driver may be able to avoid a crash that a below average driver cannot. Despite being difficult to predict, it is not to say that predictive analytics cannot play a major role in helping us make our streets safer, as well as smarter. Even if we cannot predict the likelihood of a singular event, we can develop an increased understanding of where or why crashes may happen. If we deliberately gather, organize and analyze the right amount and kinds of data, sourced over a proper period of time, we can use the insights that we gain we can do a number of important analyses. With that data, here’s what the process will look like:

  • Establish a baseline of expected crashes, given characteristics of the road (including externalities like weather, scheduled events, etc.)
  • This baseline will allow us to identify and understand which roads are disproportionately unsafe, which can inform investment prioritization for improvements
  • Once that prioritization is in place, predictive analytics will allow a deeper level of insight into exactly what attributes contribute to the risk of a road or an intersection
  • This intelligence will enable administrators to be more specific in how we intervene. For instance, should we adjust signal timings, decrease lane width, or manage pedestrian traffic differently?

Eventually the full deployment and evolution of predictive analytics throughout the infrastructure of our transportation systems will both inform and drive a real-time approach to safety management. By understanding the impact of weather and congestion on each road, city, county or state-wide, we will be able to anticipate exactly which intersections may become disproportionately dangerous when that next summer thunderstorm hits.

Where do we go from here? In many ways, the journey is just beginning. Through our work with the City of Chicago we will continue to learn more about how we make data and analytics more useful to the modern definition of what a ‘smart city’ can do. As we learn, we will be eager to share all the data and insights that we gain here in Chicago with cities around the world. Stay tuned!

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