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RoadSafe steers you clear of blackspots

 Published 15th October 2021
General Guides 

No matter where you live in the UK, it's absolutely guaranteed there'll be a bit of road somewhere near you that causes locals to roll their eyes at yet another buffoon who stuffed up that bend or misjudged the awkward junction. Again.

You live there so you know that bend is tighter than it looks, or that you really need to edge out of that junction very slowly at 10:03am on a Tuesday morning because the bin lorry has a habit of blocking the view.

When it comes to road safety, local knowledge can be quite an important tool.

Whether on the school run, the daily commute, or doing the weekly shop, we are all familiar with stretches of road or certain locations where more care is needed while driving. Which is why Ford has developed the “RoadSafe” concept, a system that can alert drivers to higher risk locations and make the insight available to local authorities to actually do something about them.

OK, that second bit is probably just wishful thinking…. but it would at least be useful to know even if the council doesn't have any money to fix it.

The thinking behind the project is, like many good ideas, relatively simple. According to Jon Scott, City Insights project lead, Ford Mobility Europe: “There are areas in every city where the chance of an incident is higher, whether it's due to a poorly placed sign, an unrepaired pothole or junctions built to accommodate far less traffic than we have today. Ford can pinpoint the areas of concern, so drivers could be made more aware of them, and authorities can address them,”

Sounds like the sort of information that could be useful in a navigation system.

Ford's “RoadSafe” technology uses a smart algorithm – we presume smart algorithms are the ones that don't cause your social media to stop working for six hours without explanation - to crunch the data from sources including connected vehicles, roadside sensors, and accident reports to pinpoint where there is a higher chance of traffic incidents occurring. This information can then be displayed on a map that identifies the level of risk and could also be used to warn drivers of hotspots.

The Ford “ RoadSafe ” digital tool is the culmination of four years of research by Ford, alongside Oxfordshire County Council, Loughborough University and AI sensor specialists Vivacity Labs, with support from Transport for London and backing from Innovate UK. There are a lot of fingers in this particular pie.

To gather the necessary data, connected vehicles record driving events, including braking, steering, and accelerating, while Vivacity's road-side sensors track the movements of other road users. The sensors employ machine-learning algorithms to detect near-miss incidents and analyse movement patterns of vulnerable road-users such as cyclists and pedestrians, as well as all the non-connected vehicles. Combining the data from vehicles and sensors can pinpoint hazards such as places where vehicles pass too close to cyclists; a poorly located bus stop causing traffic to become congested; or badly designed roundabouts and junctions causing confusion and near-misses.


Of course, once the data is collected you need to do something useful with it.

All the anonymous data collected enabled the development of a “Road Segment Risk Rating Heat Map”. Ignore the name, it's just a map which highlights accident hotspots that are of particular concern. The dashboard includes various layers of data, including historic accident data and a “Risk Prediction” rating for each section of road segment. You won't be surprised to hear the rating system uses colours to show where incidents are more likely to happen, red obviously having the highest risk level and yellow the lowest.

All of this information has multiple benefits.

For business users it could be used to optimise routing to detour away from problem areas, reducing potential down time resulting from incidents. Your satnav could warn you of accident blackspots so you could drive like a local no matter where you are. Everyone would benefit from fewer accidents delaying our journeys. And whoever is ultimately responsible for the state of some of our roads might actually be embarrassed into doing something to fix them. It's even the sort of data that could be used in the future to help program truly autonomous cars to recognise and anticipate hazards earlier.

Granted, as far as motoring news goes it's not quite as exciting as the launch of a new Italian Supercar. Ford has been quietly working away on something that's actually useful though. And while you may never notice, it's the kind of thing that will quietly appear in your car one day and you'll wonder why nobody thought of it any sooner.

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