America Walks Identifies Critical Data for Pedestrian Safety Around AV Integration

America Walks’ Communications and Outreach Specialist, Kelsey Card, attended the second workshop in a series of five dialogues to be hosted by the Federal Highway Administration across the country through 2018 concerning the introduction of autonomous vehicle (AV) technologies to the American streetscape.

This second workshop covered Digital Infrastructure and Data, a chance for infrastructure owners and operators, tech companies, insurance companies, manufacturers, suppliers and freight companies, transportation services, federal government, and state and local governments and public sector agencies to explore the data opportunities and challenges regarding vehicle automation. In the context of AVs, digital infrastructure enables the efficient collection, processing, and exchange of data that empowers policymakers and stakeholders to make informed decisions about AV integration, but only if that data is made readily available to decision-makers.

The goal of this session was to begin discussing what updates to institutional structures would be necessary to develop new partnerships and collaborations between public agencies and industry to enable appropriate data exchange around emerging AV technology. Vibrant discussion groups and an active collaboration corner prioritized open information sharing to identify opportunities and challenges around vehicle automation in hopes of expanding beyond FHWA’s typical stakeholders, to strengthen new and existing coordination channels for future action in defining roadway readiness.

America Walks is concerned with the implications that autonomous vehicle technologies have for pedestrian safety, including around open data exchange and safety regulation. During the course of the fervorous two-day discussion, individuals spent time identifying what digital infrastructure is and means, what AV data are, and the relationship between the two. Groups then identified and prioritized critical and mutually beneficial use cases for data exchange in hopes of safely and successfully enabling the integration of AVs. Focus points and needs surrounded topics of digital infrastructure and connectivity, operational data, research, standards and policies, cross-jurisdictional regulation and enforcement, cross modal and multi-modal connections and coordination, defining areas of public-private benefit, and generally bridging the gap to work across traditional silos.

In an era where pedestrian deaths are at an all time high, perhaps one of the biggest conundrums moving forward with AV integration will be striking the balance between the rapid, agile-methodology focused push for iterative innovation, along with the barrier of releasing proprietary data, with the dire need to better protect all road users, especially our most vulnerable — those who move on foot. Questions still loom: What are the ways that FHWA and others will collect and enforce open data from industry? What are the overall standards for accountability? How are they enforced?

Here’s a list of America Walks’ data exchange use case priorities that could help put pedestrians first when it comes to the speed of emerging AV technology:

  • Ped/Bike near misses and all other near-miss events
  • Performance in safety critical scenarios
  • Disengagement/connectivity loss data (instances in testing phases when an AV loses connection, loses sensory)
  • Road signage or broken infrastructure imagery/data
  • Ground truth data (sensory technology)

Many key stakeholders agreed at the dialogue that AV technologies could have considerable impacts for safety, equity and privacy. There was a consensus that policies, standards, and agreements must be outlined around safety, privacy, interoperability, data quality and more — yesterday.

America Walks is leading the way in empowering communities to create safe, accessible, and enjoyable walking conditions for all. Help us uphold the pedestrian-first voice around AV integration and register for the next FHWA dialogue.

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