USDOT launches competition to develop innovative methods to analyze crash data


The US Department of Transportation (USDOT) has launched the Solving for Safety: Visualization Challenge, a national multi-stage competition for local government, data scientists, technologists, academia and safety experts to analyze risk on the surface transportation system through advanced data analytics.

The Solving for Safety Challenge focuses on encouraging technology firms and safety stakeholders to create data visualizations that illuminate important insights about the country’s highway safety problem. To help ensure that roads are as safe as possible, USDOT is opening its different datasets – many of which are siloed, analyzed separately, and made available on just an annual basis – and asking data experts to develop tools that can be used to reduce risk. Factors such as the weather, road conditions, and time of day all play a role in risk, and the agency hopes that targeted, sophisticated analysis will create, ‘clear, compelling data visualizations’, which can be used to mitigate crash risks.

The Solving for Safety Challenge is part of USDOT’s Safety Data Initiative announced in January, which focuses on data integration, data visualizations, and predictive insights. New data analytics will allow the agency to synthesize traditional and new data sources, and data visualization will cultivate a system of insights and innovative technologies that change the way transportation safety is approached.

Individuals and teams are competing for US$350,000 in cash prizes by developing innovative analytical visualization tools to enable insights, inform decisions, and reduce fatalities and serious injuries on the USA’s road and rail systems. Tools can range from dashboards using disparate data sets, to spatial analysis via maps, virtual or augmented reality scenarios, image and image analysis, social media mining and beyond.

The challenge also invites companies and organizations to participate as innovation agents, acting as a resource for the competition entrants by providing real-world knowledge, guidance, insight, issues, data and recognition of the issue to non-transportation safety populations. A judging panel of cross-functional technical experts and senior level staff will select finalists and award prizes.

Format for the competition is:

• Stage I, Ideation – Solvers develop ideas. Four semi-finalists advance to Stage II;

• Stage II, Concept – Four semi-finalists develop ideas into proofs of concept and compete for part of a US$100,000 prize purse. Two semi-finalists advance to Stage III;

• Stage III, Tool – Two finalists develop proofs of concept into working tools and compete for a US$250,000 prize purse, with each receiving a minimum of US$50,000.

“Under Secretary Chao’s leadership, we have continued to make significant progress in transportation safety. This announcement asks participants to apply advanced analytics and technological innovations to dramatically improve safety on our roads,” said US Under Secretary for Policy, Derek Kan.

“Recent innovations in data analytics and visualization tools give us the potential to understand risk at the system level, and to develop tools and discover insights that will lead to new, life-saving strategies that address injuries and fatalities on our roadways.”

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About Author


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).