Ford shows how big data analytics can reveal potential future road accident blackspots


Using London as a testbed, Ford has developed a smart solution that uses big data analytics and could help city authorities to identify where traffic incidents are likely to occur and then enable them to take pre-emptive action.

It is often only after accidents have occurred that particular junctions or stretches of road are identified as problematic for drivers, cyclists or pedestrians. Now Ford has come up with a method by which big data could potentially help cities identify locations which, if nothing is done, are most likely to be the scene of future traffic incidents.

Ford’s Smart Mobility division spent the last year recording more than one million kilometers (621,370 miles) of vehicle and driver behavior in and around London. The company tracked vehicle journeys in the UK capital and logged highly detailed driving data from driving events such as braking, the severity of that braking, and even where hazard warning lights were applied: this helped to identify ‘near-misses’. The company then cross-referenced this information with existing accident reports and built an algorithm to determine the likelihood of where future incidents might occur.

The findings were among insights revealed in the new interactive Ford City Data Report that was launched at last week’s Future of Transport conference in London to show how the company could help to make traveling in cities easier and safer. The report, using data that was obtained and analyzed with the consent of participants, took its findings from more than 15,000 days of vehicle use, from 160 connected vans in the city, and delivered 500 million datapoints.

Ford ‘connected’ each vehicle in the study by equipping it with a simple plug-in device that recorded the journey data and then sent it to the cloud for analysis. Data scientists from Ford’s Global Data Insight and Analytics team were then able to analyze the information through an interactive dashboard. This technology could be applied in any road environment, not just in cities.

The report also investigated other opportunities, such as how scheduling delivery van journeys for earlier in the day, before peak times, could benefit all road users, and how using journey data could help to identify the best locations for electric vehicle (EV) charging points. Ford understands that any data-driven solution depends upon the willingness of drivers to share their data, but believes that where there is a clear benefit, that consumers will be more open to supporting such a service.

“We believe our insights have the potential to benefit millions of people,” said Jon Scott, project lead of City Data Solutions at Ford Smart Mobility. “Even very small changes could make a big difference, maybe cutting back a tree that has obscured a road sign, whether in terms of traffic flow, road safety or efficiency.”

Sarah-Jayne Williams, director of Ford Smart Mobility Europe, added, “Our City Data Report is a showcase of what we can do with connected vehicle data, smart infrastructure, and our analytical capabilities. We are calling on cities to work with us to collectively solve problems that they can become even better places to live and work in.”

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Rachelle joined Traffic Technology International in early 2016 after having worked for an HR magazine and prior to that, as a freelance sub editor for various lifestyle consumer magazines. As deputy editor, she supports the editor in making each issue and updating the website. Outside of work, she enjoys tap dancing, playing the piano and video games, and eating spicy food.