Vision Zero, the goal of having no more deaths or severe injuries in road traffic, is the underlying concept of the European road safety program. From 2011 to 2020, however, only a few countries achieved the interim goal of reducing the total number of road traffic fatalities by 50%. Even Germany failed the goal it set for itself, which was to reduce the number of traffic deaths by 40% in this period. According to preliminary figures from the EU Commission, 20,000 people died in 2021 due traffic accidents in the European Union – nearly 1,000 more people than in the previous year, despite the reduced mobility of the population in the pandemic year 2020. There is an urgent need to act. With the FeGiS+ research project, road safety work in all countries is now blazing new – data-based – paths.
Rethinking road safety – FeGiS+
Causes of the increasing number of traffic deaths are higher traffic volumes, and also stress in everyday life and more distraction. This is why drivers frequently do not assess dangerous situations correctly or they recognize them only too late.
And this is precisely where the FeGiS+ research project comes in. The title stands for “Early detection of road traffic danger zones with smart data”. The aim of the research project is to make early indicators visible; that is, to identify risks and potential dangers in road traffic early on and to prevent traffic accidents with timely warnings and preventative measures. “We would like to achieve this with better use of existing safety-relevant data and the exploitation of new data sources,” explains Alexander Dahl, Project Manager and Manager Research at PTV Group. “To do this, we are working with our project partners to create an integrated data platform that will serve as a database to enable proactive road safety work on all levels.” The project is supported by the German Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure as part of the modernity fund ‘mFUND’ and by the interdisciplinary cooperation of partners from the Initiative for Safe Roads (project coordinator), from science (RWTH Aachen, German Police University), and transport planning (PTV Group, DTV Verkehrsconsult).
Smart Data: New data sources for proactive road safety
Previously, official accident data was collected and analyzed. New is the addition of data sources especially for proactive road safety work: All road users can use the reporting and informational platform www.gefahrenstellen.de to point out traffic dangers, to comment on and illustrate these. The details arrive as so-called user-based danger alerts. In addition, acceleration data from motor vehicles, so-called impulse data, serves to record safety-critical driving maneuvers. Both of these types of data are combined and prepared with the official accident data and will in the future be provided as smart data across the network. Inga Luchmann, Senior Project Manager at PTV Group, reports about PTV’s contribution to the project: “The analysis of the many and varied desires and requirements of the target groups for an integrated platform was extremely exciting. But also how the project team could implement these ideas in the course of the project. We partners were most interested in developing a long-term approach, which on the one hand can last beyond the project period, and on the other hand can also be applied beyond the boundaries of Germany.”
Basic feature: Nationwide map of weighted danger zones in Germany
By mixing and analyzing the data collected, danger zones can be identified, analyzed in detail, and weighted with a “danger score”. Luchmann explains: “The point here is to prepare the data about accident and danger zones in an agreed-upon format or standard which complies with data privacy regulations and is easy to understand for all users. Communities want a systematic combination of various data types to produce an aggregated danger assessment. Insurance companies and scientists want various filtering possibilities for evaluating the data. The consortium can develop and implement both of these things.”
In the final product, the risk of an accident will be clear for each section of road and junction, etc. By incorporating other data, such as weather data, it is also possible to define special influencing factors for the danger zones. A nationwide danger zone map for Germany will then display the results as a basic feature – and thus provide a key element for danger zone analysis and proactive accident prevention.
Collecting data for a good cause
“Data usage and evaluation are difficult topics in Germany, involving a lot of resources,” says Luchmann. “The project takes up the general trend toward road safety work in Germany and Europe; the point is no longer simply to react to accident data, but to become proactive. This proactive identification of danger zones requires new processes – and additional data. The FeGiS approach also enables an immediate comparison of subjective citizen reports with objective accident data.” In addition to the road users, the project assists all those involved in road safety work such as communities, police authorities, traffic planning offices, and researchers in making their decisions about suitable preventative measures. At the same time, the public dialog about the danger zones app reduces repeated inquiries about particular danger zones. The app enables citizens to participate in traffic and school route planning and through dialog, encourages acceptance of the measures taken.
Crowdsourcing: successful proactive accident prevention
The first test of the crowdsourcing platform gefahrenstellen.de in 2017-2018 was very successful. The focus there was on the cities of Bonn and Aachen. Based on extensive reporting in daily newspapers, online portals, radio, and TV, a total of 1,500 hazard reports were collected for the two cities from approximately 3,500 supporters. A subsequent appraisal and analysis by the RWTH Aachen confirmed the quality and relevance of the reports. In addition to identifying known black spots, the road users also reported danger zones that had not yet been noticed due to accidents, but that demonstrated great risk potential during site visits. This form of crowdsourcing was therefore confirmed as a valid method for the early detection of danger zones.
Danger score: Integration into traffic models
Dahl sums things up: “With FeGiS+, we’re on the right path toward proactive road safety work and accident prevention. The project approach is essentially open to various use cases and is also of interest to various target groups.
This way, we in the consortium were able to react to users’ desires and create a user-friendly platform and app. For PTV Group, we are currently checking the integration of danger score maps into traffic models that were created using PTV Visum. And we show our customers how they can benefit from this additional information to analyze their networks in terms of road safety. All in all, it was also a very fulfilling project for me personally.”
Straßenverkehrstechnik-Magazine (Road Traffic Engineering):
Early detection of danger zones in road traffic using Smart Data – FeGiS+
Ehlers, Jörg; Kathmann, Thorsten; Heel, Emanuel von; Sutter, Christine; Bode, Tina; Luchmann, Inga; Dahl, Alexander; Grahl, Michaela