At this point, it seems clear that autonomous vehicles are on the verge of technical feasibility. Just last week, Waymo announced that it is testing self-driving minivans without a human back-up in the front seat. Its employees will be riding in the back with an emergency stop button – but no steering wheel. But do these technical advances mean that we’re ready for AVs? How should we manage the non-technical aspects of AV deployment to ensure they achieve promised improvements in safety and accessibility?
I decided to write this article to address these issues after participating in the Intelligent Transportation System World Congress earlier this month. There were tons of panels focused on autonomous vehicles, and I was lucky enough to be speak on one that dove into the critical questions for civic leaders and transportation professionals. We went beyond technical readiness to ask ourselves if should we deploy AVs, and, if so, how should we deploy them?
Getting the data you need to make savvy transportation planning decisions can be a lengthy, expensive process if you’re using surveys, license plate counts, or road sensors. These methods also make it difficult to evaluate the performance of a policy or project after implementation.
For example, when planners rely on old or modeled data to design their project, they don’t have a real-world baseline to evaluate current performance after a project is completed. Most road sensors are removed after a few days, so they must be re-installed to collect more data. Surveys can take months or even years to complete. If planners want to make performance-based improvements as they implement policy or infrastructure changes, they often have to start from scratch with data collection. This could create real flaws if your community has seasonal variation based on weather or school - or if your community has new transportation patterns derived from the rise of ride share or urban population growth, for example.
In today’s world, there are much more efficient, up-to-date, and accurate ways to obtain the information you need. Nearly 77% of the US population uses a smartphone, and the data they produce is creating new options for transportation planners. In this article, I’ll share four advantages that Big Data has over conventional data sources for transportation planning.
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As a San Francisco-based company, the wildfires that recently spread across northern California have been extremely troubling for our team at StreetLight Data. For us, this went beyond poor air quality in the Bay Area. The fires impacted the homes and personal well-being of our employees, our clients, and our families. While it is always difficult to see tragic events occur anywhere in the world, watching fires destroy places we love was something else entirely.
The experience forced us to think harder about what we, as a company, can do to help. Our product, StreetLight InSight®, helps transportation professionals use Big Data from mobile devices to understand travel patterns – but what specific information can it provide to aid in evacuations? At a personal level, how can we help communities in need, at least in the continental US and southern Canada, where we currently operate?
Before I dive into details, I want to stress that we’re here to help. If your community is facing an imminent evacuation, and our Metrics could help you get people get out of harm’s way, email me (I’m the CEO) directly. Tell me what you need, and we’ll skip the formalities and paperwork to provide the data for free as quickly as we can.
Public transit is a key component of cities’ mobility networks, especially in dense urban centers. Trains and buses help commuters avoid the hassle of traffic jams on congested roadways, not to mention pricey parking. But some cities are attracting commuters and residents so quickly that public transit cannot keep up -- just ask anyone who lives in Denver, Colorado.
The population in Denver has grown by ~45% since 1996, and the average commuter there now spends 49 hours per year sitting in traffic, but only 4.4% of commuters use public transit (Source: Denver Post). Similar scenarios are playing out across the US in cities like Austin, Seattle, San Francisco, and more. Even though alternatives to driving are available in many of these growing cities, not enough commuters are using them – and congestion keeps getting worse.
Traditionally, public transit planners improve systems by looking at existing transit users’ behavior. They identify potential users as those who live and work near transit stations. But in this era of rapid urban population growth, we cannot consider these groups alone: What about the people who are driving because transit isn’t currently a viable option? What about the people who could be using the transit to commute, but aren’t? In this blog post, I’ll walk you though a few ways Big Data can help address these questions.
We’re excited to share that StreetLight Data has a new public agency partner: Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT). The agency recently signed up for a one-year pilot of our Regional Subscription to StreetLight InSight®, the first online platform that turns Big Data from mobile devices into transportation Metrics.
MnDOT’s Regional Subscription provides designated users with unlimited access to StreetLight InSight for Metrics in the state of Minnesota (and a buffer area). That means MnDOT’s Regional Subscription users can design and run as many StreetLight InSight transportation studies as desired to during their subscription term – without any incremental costs or additional procurement processes.
We just passed our one-year anniversary of using Location-Based Services (LBS) data, so we decided to update some key sample size figures. The results are exciting: Our sample size has doubled to more than 62 million devices in the US and Canada in the past year. In other words, now our analytics anonymously describe the travel behavior of 23% of the US and Canadian adult population.
There are many reasons for this increase, including our main LBS data partner, Cuebiq, doing a great job. However, the most important reason is that Location-Based Services are becoming more and more widely adopted by consumers. As a result, our clients can now analyze the aggregate travel patterns of nearly ¼ of the population in just a few mouse clicks.
That’s a large sample by any measure, but when you consider the “status quo” methods of collecting travel behavior data, it’s even more dramatic. Imagine how much it would cost – and how long it would take – to collect household travel surveys from 62 million people, or to install sensors and traffic counters on the roads they use every day. It just wouldn’t be feasible. In this blog post, I’ll explain how we calculate sample size (hint: accuracy is more important to us than flashiness) and why it’s grown so much in just one year.