Before in-cab alerts were engaged, drivers in the pilot were speeding during 23.13% of 1,267 vulnerable road user (VRU) detections. After the in-cab alerts were engaged, that proportion dropped to...

Before in-cab alerts were engaged, drivers in the pilot were speeding during 23.13% of 1,267 vulnerable road user (VRU) detections. After the in-cab alerts were engaged, that proportion dropped to 17.02% of 2,198 VRU detections.

Photo: Together for Safer Roads/Automotive Fleet

Together for Safer Roads (TSR) has announced the findings from a study on its Truck of the Future (ToF) pilot program, which works to enhance road safety for vulnerable road users (VRUs) in urban areas.

The pilot, conducted throughout 2023, showcased promising results in utilizing aftermarket technologies to mitigate potential conflicts between large fleet vehicles and VRUs, according to a news release.

"The findings from the Truck of the Future pilot program underscore the transformative potential of innovative technologies to make roads safer for Vulnerable Road Users and fleet vehicle drivers alike,” TSR Executive Director Peter Goldwasser said. “TSR remains committed to fostering cross-sector collaborations that prioritize the safety of all road users in ways that are actionable and scalable."

Why the Technology is Necessary and How it Works

TSR pointed out recent data underscoring the need for measures to protect VRUs: in 2021, 84% of the 7,388 pedestrian fatalities recorded occurred in urban areas, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

The ToF pilot program, a public-private partnership, sought to address this challenge by installing VRU Detection Systems on fleet vehicles, providing drivers with enhanced visibility and real-time feedback on potential near misses.

The VRU technology, developed by TSR member VisionTrack, utilizes AI-powered cameras to detect pedestrians, bicyclists, motorcyclists, and scooter users around the vehicle.

Fleets participating in the pilot include the City of New York, with 10 vehicles each from two separate city departments, and AB InBev’s subsidiary in Mexico City, which had 10 vehicles participate in the pilot. 

A total of 67,732 VRU alerts were collectively recorded over the course of the pilot program amongst the three participating fleets. Only VRUs detected within 0.8 meters — or roughly 2.5 ft — of the vehicle were flagged to the driver.

This means people walking on foot, or bicyclists, motorcyclists, or scooter users came within 2.5 ft. of participating vehicles nearly 68,000 times over the course of the pilot.

According to the study, the VisionTrack camera system consists of four camera views: front, rear, left, and right. A live feed of these camera views is visible to the driver. When a VRU is detected, they are outlined by a red box along with a red triangle with an exclamation point to capture the attention of the driver.

The quadscreen view would shift to the single view where the VRU was detected. In addition, an auditory and visual alert is given to notify the driver that a vulnerable road user is close to the truck and their general location. For example, if a VRU was detected on the right side of the driver’s truck, a voice alert would state “Alert, pedestrian right".

TSR noted that this highlights the challenges faced by drivers on today’s roads, and the importance of a technology that provides drivers with a 360-degree view of vision around the vehicle and alerts on imminent risks.

“Video telematics are a vital component of a comprehensive fleet safety plan, especially as it relates to after-market vehicle modifications,” said Matthew Ison, Vice President of Sales - North America at TSR member VisionTrack. “We are thrilled to be involved in the Truck of the Future pilot and showcase specifically the increasing capabilities of AI in telematics to provide drivers with greater awareness of surrounding VRUs, change driving behaviors, and create safer roads for all.”

Key findings from the pilot program study include:

  • Reduction in Speeding: The installation of the VRU Detection System was associated with a decrease in speeding over time, particularly in the most severe ‘red’ category (25% or over the speed limit) and among outlier speeders. This finding was surprising as the system did not directly alert drivers when they were speeding.

    Before the in-cab alerts were engaged, drivers were speeding during 23.13% of 1,267 VRU detections. However, after the in-cab alerts were engaged, that proportion dropped to 17.02% of 2,198 VRU detections.

    The reduction in speeding suggests the VRU Detection System’s benefits may go beyond providing indirect vision and detection alerts, to creating positive behavioral shifts among drivers towards safer practices. Speeding is a leading contributing factor to both crashes and the severity of said crashes once they occur.
  • Increased VRU Awareness: Drivers demonstrated greater awareness of VRUs over time. In one fleet, the proportion of VRU alerts that occurred while the driver was speeding decreased over time, suggesting that drivers consciously slowed down in areas where a VRU was likely to be detected.

    Meanwhile, a NYC department saw more alerts during warmer months, when more people were out, showing the system's importance in busy areas where the system would flag a VRU.

    AB InBev’s fleet saw an approximately 50% reduction in the number of VRU alerts over the first three months of the pilot, possibly due to changes in driver behavior. These results highlight how the system could help drivers be more aware and avoid incidents, making roads safer overall.
  • Positive Feedback: Both drivers and managers provided positive qualitative feedback on the effectiveness of the VRU Detection System, highlighting its potential to prevent crashes and improve overall road safety. Nine out of 10 drivers surveyed thought that the alerts would help prevent a crash.

    In a survey of managers/admin users post-pilot, both NYC (with a rating of 5 out of 5) and AB InBev managers (with a rating of 4.80 out of 5) felt that the cameras and alert systems were very helpful in making the roads safer. 

"As a corporate participant with one of the larger global fleets, and as a founding member of Together for Safer Roads, we are encouraged by the positive outcomes of the Truck of the Future pilot program,” said Catalina Garcia Gomez, Global Director of Corporate Affairs at AB InBev. “This initiative aligns with our commitment to promoting responsible and safe driving practices among our drivers."

InBev drivers were given a survey midway through the pilot, with 10 responding. Nine said they thought the alerts would help prevent a crash, with seven stating that the VRU detection system had helped them personally.

Managers from NYC's fleet department said they believed the cameras and alert systems were very helpful in making the roads safer.

"The City of New York is proud to have participated in the Truck of the Future pilot program,” said Keith Kerman, DCAS Deputy Commissioner and NYC Chief Fleet Officer. “These findings reaffirm our dedication to implementing cutting-edge solutions to protect pedestrians and cyclists on our streets, while also aligning with other key actions the City is undertaking, including the recent Mayoral Executive Order that addresses visual obstructions for truck operators in New York City."

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