When we founded StreetLight Data back in 2011, our sole focus was to help educate and plan for electric vehicles (EVs). But we quickly realized that our transportation analytics would have a more significant positive impact if we expanded our mission. However, EVs are still one of my deep interests: I drove a Chevy Volt for several years before going car-free just a few months ago, and I focused on EVs in my early career at the Rocky Mountain Institute and Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. Based on my personal experience, I know we can do a better job of planning and deploying EV charging infrastructure. If we want to see wide adoption of EVs, then we must make charging more convenient and affordable while minimizing its impact on our electrical grid. Given the wave of new charging station deployments in the US and abroad, now seems like the right time to explain how Big Data can help.
Autonomous vehicles (AVs) are beginning to dominate much of the public conversation about our transportation future. This was certainly the case at South by Southwest, where I participated in an excellent panel discussion at the C3 Smart Mobility Showcase: “Smart Cities and Data-Driven Deployment of Autonomous Vehicles.” Nearly every single panel at the showcase was related to AV technology. People in that tent were very excited about AVs. However, I found myself thinking back to the 12-lane urban highway that my taxi driver took from my hotel to the event. The local bus would have taken over three times as long, and the drive reminded me that AVs are not a panacea for all that ails our transportation system.
Don’t get me wrong: Talking about AVs at an event like SXSW makes sense, and I’m glad we’re having these conversations. But I think the broader discussion around AVs needs to be focused on accountability. The impact of AVs could be very positive or very negative, as many transportation experts have suggested. In this blog post, I’ll explore how a data-driven approach can help us strike the right balance with AVs, and hold ourselves accountable for achieving a positive outcome for all.
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Two of the questions we’re often asked here at StreetLight Data are: “What percentage of the population is creating the location records in your sample?" and "Does the location data in your sample fairly represent all income groups, or is it biased?” In this blog post, we’re pulling back the curtain on our internal evaluation process with a deep-dive analysis of our newest data source: Location-Based Services data. We started using this data source chiefly because of its large sample size and representativeness, so in this blog post, I will show you our process for determining these characteristics. (Click here to read more about Location-Based Services data in general.)
I’m excited to share that we updated StreetLight InSight® again this week – and it’s an update that I’ve been eagerly anticipating for quite a long time. Beginning now, our clients can access Metrics derived from our new Location-Based Services data source directly from our StreetLight InSight web app – that’s our one-stop, cloud-based platform for the best Big Data resources and the processing software that makes them useful. So, why am I so excited about this? It means some of our most popular Metrics are even more comprehensive and accurate than before. That’s because our device sample size now represents about 10% of the U.S. population. We’re processing roughly 60 billion location data points into travel pattern analytics every month – and counting!
At last week’s Transportation Research Board Annual Meeting, I attended an excellent panel discussion about transportation data. Towards the end of the panel, the moderator challenged the group with a somewhat loaded question. I don’t recall the exact phrasing, but it was along these lines: “As transportation professionals, we know that we have a huge amount of work to do to upgrade, maintain, and repair our infrastructure. The backlog of projects that we have not yet begun is overwhelming. Given our clear mandate - and the often politicized process of infrastructure investments - does all this new data actually impact our decisions in the real world?” It’s an important question to ask - but based on audience feedback and in my own opinion, the answer is clearly yes.
Occasionally, when I introduce myself as an employee of StreetLight Data, people ask: “Oh, so you measure the data from streetlights?” We do not do that - yet! (But stay tuned for more information on our new partnership with Current Powered by GE down the road)
We're beginning to hear this question often enough that we wanted to publish a blog post about our name. And now is the right time to tell our story: Next week, we will be exhibiting at the Transportation Research Board Annual Meeting, and the StreetLight Data booth (#639) is located near a traffic signal manufacturer.