Volpe researches Vehicle-to-Pedestrian communications for the NHTSA


The US Department of Transportation’s (USDOT) Volpe National Transportation Systems Center has been researching the benefits of Vehicle-to-Pedestrian (V2P) communications systems in reducing rising casualty figures.

Between 2014 and 2015, pedestrian fatalities in the USA increased by 9.5%, with these vulnerable road users usually taking the full brunt of collisions involving a vehicle. The Volpe experts analyzed data from national crash databases that code hundreds of thousands of real crashes to help the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) understand the scenarios that lead up to vehicle-pedestrian crashes and how V2P technology can help avoid them. The study shows that V2P communications can help avoid impacts or reduce the consequences when light vehicles, (weighing 10,000 lb or less), collide with pedestrians; a situation that is most prevalent in busy environments, such as cities, where pedestrians and vehicles share the road space.

V2P-based crash avoidance systems use wireless communication to transfer information between vehicles and pedestrians using dedicated short-range communications (DSRC), wi-fi, global positioning system (GPS) tracking via cellular networks, or other wireless technologies. V2P communications can help make drivers and pedestrians aware of each other, and avoid potential collisions. However, to minimize interventions based on false positives, V2P systems must also be able to discern between driving situations where a crash is imminent, and benign driving conditions.

Volpe researchers identified five priority pre-crash scenarios that make up 91% of fatal crashes between light vehicles and pedestrians, where the first event in the crash is the vehicle striking a pedestrian:

• Vehicle going straight and the pedestrian crossing the road;

• Vehicle going straight and the pedestrian in the road;

• Vehicle going straight and the pedestrian adjacent to the road;

• Vehicle turning left and the pedestrian crossing the road;

• Vehicle turning right and the pedestrian crossing the road.

The Volpe project lays the foundation for new V2P safety applications by identifying research areas and knowledge gaps. The NHTSA will use Volpe’s work to improve the effectiveness of V2P crash avoidance systems and advance V2P technologies that can compensate for limitations of vehicle-based pedestrian crash avoidance systems that use radar, lidar, or vision sensors.

“A firm understanding of the scenarios that lead to vehicle-pedestrian crashes is the basis for systems that can make drivers and pedestrians more aware of each other,” said Wassim Najm, chief of advanced vehicle technology at Volpe. “With more awareness, crashes may be less severe or avoided entirely.”

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Tom has edited Traffic Technology International (TTi) magazine and its Traffic Technology Today website since May 2014. During his time at the title, he has interviewed some of the top transportation chiefs at public agencies around the world as well as CEOs of leading multinationals and ground-breaking start-ups. Tom's earlier career saw him working on some the UK's leading consumer magazine titles. He has a law degree from the London School of Economics (LSE).