Bringing Street Safety to the Next Frontier of Smart Cities

May 17, 2017   |   Carey Anne Nadeau, Founder & CEO, Open Data Nation

In Microsoft’s Civic Tech Engagement group, we partner with civic organizations and governments not only to create new ways to leverage data and technology to tackle local priorities but also to sustain and scale those innovations across cities and communities. Therefore, we are thrilled to announce that we are partnering with Open Data Nation to lay the groundwork on innovative approaches to applying data science to transportation safety. Open Data Nation will build on the collaborative experimentation of DataKind, Seattle, New York, New Orleans and Microsoft to empower more cities to integrate data science into their Vision Zero programs. We welcome the CEO of Open Data Nation, Carey Anne Nadeau, as a guest blogger to articulate the opportunity and approach for this partnership.  

— Elizabeth Grossman, Director of Civic Projects, Microsoft

Smart city technologies and data science techniques are making incredible and swift leaps forward – from smart sensors that detect smog to analytics that guide efficient water use in times of drought – but in this figurative race to the moon, select cities have been able to get projects off the ground while most others are stranded back on earth.

In a first-of-its-kind partnership between Microsoft and Open Data Nation, we’re tackling this inequity head on, lowering the barriers to entry, and making sure that the benefits of the smart cities movement diffuse to all who may share in and benefit from better, safer, and healthier cities.

We’ve identified a big issue in cities, where a broad-based, adaptable solution can have great impact. In 2016, the number of people who died in a car crash spiked to nearly 18,000, the most since 2008. From Fort Lauderdale to Seattle, at least 40 US cities have recognized that traffic crashes are putting bicyclists, pedestrians and drivers at risk in their communities. And, mayors in each city have signed on to the Vision Zero Initiative, pledging to reduce the number of traffic deaths to zero.

While a common goal to prevent injuries and save lives is clearly articulated, the Vision Zero Initiative is not prescriptive, and each of the 40 cities has taken its own unique approach to traffic safety planning. For example, the three cities that worked with DataKind and Microsoft applied data science techniques to local priorities, identifying factors that contribute to incidents, prioritizing investments, and tracking the impact of interventions (Read more about these three cities in the case study here and many more here).

Over the course of 2017, Open Data Nation will build from these early examples to guide the next frontier of Vision Zero cities to explore a data science approach. First, we’ll work with interested cities to advise them on what data is useful and how to prepare for data analysis. Then, we’ll work with three select cities to build models that predict where and when people are in the most danger of being struck and killed in car crashes.  Along the way, we’ll document the experience, creating relevant guidance that will lower barriers and enable even more cities, who prioritize traffic safety, to try what has already shown to be effective elsewhere.  

As driverless cars come down the pike, our vision for nationwide, real-time predictions of car crashes, could eventually equip vehicles with the safety features and routing technologies necessary to prevent injuries and save lives.

This collaboration represents a giant step forward in the smart city movement — it has matured to a point where best practices may be applied and progress may be shared more broadly. With this partnership, between Open Data Nation and Microsoft, we begin being better stewards for the smarter nation of tomorrow.

To participate as one of the three pilot cities, representatives can submit a brief statement of interest here: (http://www.opendatanation.com/vision-zero).

About Open Data Nation

Open Data Nation combines detailed public records and industry expertise to reveal new, leading indicators of risks that threaten lives and livelihoods in cities. This is not the first time Open Data Nation has made waves by bringing open data initiatives to scale. In 2015, the City of Chicago demonstrated that it was possible to predict health code violations, and today Open Data Nation’s technology helps better police foodborne illness outbreaks and workplace injuries, covering more than 62,000 restaurants.

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