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How can Big Data and AI improve road safety?


For more than half a century and since the arrival of on-board electronics in cars, road safety has continuously improved. It is taking a step forward with the enhanced use of AI (artificial intelligence) and Big Data to provide new applications to improve mobility and all its components in terms of comfort, safety and on-board services.

As a product of multiple parameters and responsibilities, road safety depends simultaneously on the driver and the condition of the vehicle, but also on road maintenance. For a long time the driver was the only person in charge, but today he or she has on-board steering assistance systems that enable him or her to increase control of the vehicle (ABS, speed limiter or regulator, electronic trajectory correction, pedestrian detection, fatigue detection, safe distance warning, traffic sign reading, etc.), which reflect the progress made in artificial intelligence (AI). However, we have not yet reached the point where autonomous vehicles are on the road; the driver remains the decision maker both for driving and for navigation – although here again, he or she can find immediate assistance from GPS-based navigation applications to follow the best route or to recalculate it in real time.

Advance warning... to improve hazard anticipation

Equipped with a host of receivers that constantly analyse vehicle behaviour on the road, but also identify the warning signs of a road anomaly (that may worsen and eventually become a potential accident black spot), the vehicle can become a precious auxiliary for monitoring the road network. Based on this idea, Mobility by Colas has developed the ANAIS (Acquire-Numerate-Analyse-Inform-Secure) collaborative service, which won the 2019 Road Safety Innovation Award. Volunteer vehicles equipped with online sensors share their driving data anonymously with the road managing body. Repeated abnormal behaviour (sideways shifting, overspeeding, emergency braking, etc.) is recorded and sent to the ANAIS platform, which makes development recommendations targeting the hazard zones according to the specific features of the terrain.

What is the result? Improved road maintenance using the data collected by a collaborative civic application. ANAIS applies a major rule of driving to road safety: anticipation.