USDOT to use Waze data in pilot analytics program for new safety initiative


The US Department of Transportation (USDOT) is launching a multi-modal initiative, including two pilot programs, to modernize its data analysis and integrate its traditional datasets with new big data sources to gain insights into transportation safety.

The new USDOT initiative was announced at the Transportation Research Board (TRB) Conference earlier in the week by US Under Secretary of Transportation for Policy, Derek Kan. The agency is hoping that multi-dimensional models of the transportation system will provide insights that will help improve safety on the national highway network.

One pilot project will integrate established data on known crashes and highway design with anonymous data from GPS-enabled devices that provides prevailing speeds at five-minute intervals across the entire National Highway System (NHS). For the first time, USDOT will be able to look directly at prevailing operating speeds at a large scale to see how speed and speed differentials interact with roadway characteristics to influence the likelihood of crashes. Every year speeding is a contributing factor in traffic fatalities, and in 2016 a total of 10,111 roadway deaths involved speed. The pilot will also look at the role of speed in rural incidents.

The second pilot project will integrate existing traffic crash data with fresh data on traffic hazards and conditions taken from the Waze crowd-sourced traffic and navigation smartphone application. The Waze data comes from the world’s largest community-based source of real-time traffic and road information, with reports taken from millions of drivers using the app on their daily journeys. This initiative will examine the feasibility of using this new crowd-sourcing application to provide a reliable, timely indicator of reportable traffic crashes, and estimate crash risk based on Waze-reported hazards.

Together, these pilot projects represent a new approach to data analysis that will seek to augment traditional data sources with new data that can be collected and analyzed much more quickly. This approach will create new multi-dimensional models of the transportation system, and the initial focus of the effort is on gaining insights that will help drive down highway fatalities.

“Advances in data science have the potential to transform the department’s approach to safety research and provide insights that can help improve highway safety,” said US Transportation Secretary Elaine L Chao.

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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).