How to reduce traffic accidents with IoT data

Timo Gessmann

Timo Gessmann is the director of the Bosch IoT Lab. Together with his team he is working on IoT-enabled new business fields with a focus on mobility, energy and health as well as IoT business models, artificial intelligence and blockchain technology.

Even though the number of fatal road accidents in the European Union has fallen substantially over the last two decades, there were still almost 26,000 deaths due to road accidents in 2016. The European Commission has set itself the target of bringing this number down to close to zero by 2050.

But what can be done to improve road safety? This is one of the questions being investigated by the Bosch IoT Lab. The goal is to prevent accidents on public roads based on IoT data. We want to make drivers aware of possible dangers in traffic before they come across them. The Avertu app – recently released to the public as a beta version – illustrates how this can work.

Avertu – an app that uses IoT data to prevent accidents

Avertu is a phone app that recognizes when a navigation app such as GoogleMaps, HERE or Waze is active. It runs in the background and provides context-specific warnings to drivers when they approach a known accident-prone location – for example a pedestrian crossing with poor visibility.

This is made possible by a digital system that correlates the car’s navigation data with information on known accident hotspots. To obtain accident data, we worked together with the Swiss road authorities, who gave our researchers access to some 270,000 accident reports that had been written up by the Swiss police in the last six years. These reports were then analyzed and clustered. It became apparent that there are specific accident hotspots; locations where many accidents have happened in the past. These hotspots are now the basis for the warnings that the Avertu app provides.

Screenshot of the Avertu app by the Bosch IoT Lab.Source: Bosch IoT Lab

The Avertu apps aims to prevent traffic accidents by making drivers aware of possible dangers.

But this is only half the story. Many accidents or near-accidents on public roads are not reported to the police. Taking this into consideration, Avertu not only aims to warn drivers of locations where many accidents have happened in the past but also to predict emerging accident hotspots and to warn drivers accordingly. To do so, Avertu crowd-sources and analyzes vehicle data such as hard-braking maneuvers. If, for example, there is a location where incidents of hard breaking accumulate, the app can warn drivers of these potential danger spots. The app’s developers worked on the principle of “privacy by design”. In other words, all data is encrypted and transmitted anonymously.

Does Avertu actually prevent accidents?

About the Bosch IoT Lab

The Bosch Internet of Things Lab was officially inaugurated in September 2012. It is a cooperation between the University of St. Gallen, ETH Zurich and the Bosch Group. The organizations agree that cooperation between academia and industry is the ideal setting for exploring the opportunities offered by the Internet of Things.

The Bosch IoT Lab has been working on the topic of reducing accidents on public roads for two and half years now. During this time, various field studies were conducted in Switzerland. Altogether, the trial users drove close to 1 million kilometers using the Avertu app. Our observations showed that drivers using the app tended to drive more smoothly. They reduced the speed of their vehicle before reaching a hotspot and there were also fewer instances of heavy breaking. In essence, we were able to show that by bringing in IoT technology and offering a warning service, we are indeed able to change the behavior of car drivers and prompt them to drive more safely.

What’s next for Avertu

The Avertu app was made publicly available in Switzerland as a beta version at the beginning of 2018. By issuing a beta version, we wanted to make sure that we are heading in the right direction. In the end, we want to offer a fully fledged service, of course. The PhD team behind Avertu, André Dahlinger, Ben Ryder and Bernhard Gahr, who did the research and development of this solution at the Bosch IoT Lab, is now preparing to launch a start-up – a spin-off if you will – to bring Avertu to the market.

Our next goal is to bring this solution to other countries. Therefore, the Bosch IoT Lab is in touch with the German Federal Highway Research Institute and the European Union. We want to support the “EU Vision Zero” by helping to make public roads safer.

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Original article: How to reduce traffic accidents with IoT data
Author: Timo Gessmann