Transportation RFI seeks better data analysis tools to inform safety policymaking

(Matthias Rhomberg / Flickr)

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The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Safety Data Initiative — the agency’s strategy for using big data to make American highways safer — is now seeking industry input on what tools are out there for better data analysis and visualization.

The project, which kicked off in January, released a request for information this week calling for “industry sources, business practices, technical capacity, and operational capability related to data integration, data analysis, and data visualization that could be leveraged to further DOT’s capabilities to use safety-related data to better inform policy and decision making for multimodal surface transportation safety.”

Today, DOT admits, integrating new data at the agency is time-consuming and difficult — at least in part because the agency lacks tools for integration, analysis and visualization. The agency hopes to rectify this but wants to know what’s out there first.

Responses to the RFI are due Dec. 7. DOT will host an informational webinar Nov. 15.

The new RFI is just one part of the ongoing Safety Data Initiative. The initiative also includes four pilot projects, including one with the navigation app Waze where DOT crash data is being integrated with crowdsourced hazard data in the app to see if this information can be used to predict likely future accidents.

The agency also has a visualization challenge up on Challenge.gov called Solving for Safety and recently announced the five semi-finalists that will proceed to stage two. During this second phase semi-finalists including Uber, Arity, Ford Motor Company, the University of Central Florida and Vanasse Hangen Brustlin, Inc. will create proofs of concept for their visualization tools. Eventually, two of these competitors will be invited to turn their proofs of concept into fully working tools.

“These advanced applications show the potential for data-driven safety solutions that the Department wants to support,” Under Secretary of Transportation Derek Kan said in a statement. “Combining new sources of data, new methods of data integration, and new means to visualize and communicate the insights from this data can help the Department provide tools to transportation professionals, public safety officials and the public that can save lives.”

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Challenge.gov, Department of Transportation, Safety Data Initiative, Uber, Waze
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