How LiDAR makes roads safer for pedestrians and cyclists
As populations have swelled and road traffic has increased in major metropolitan areas around the world, the safety of pedestrians and cyclists has become an increasingly important global public health concern. According to Centers for Disaster Control and Prevention, 3,700 people are fatally injured every day in traffic accidents worldwide, a total of more than 1.35 million per year. More than half of these victims are pedestrians, motorcyclists and cyclists.
The latest road safety report from the World Health Organization (WHO) notes that road traffic crashes are now the leading cause of death worldwide for people aged 5-29. The economic toll is huge: a study of 166 countries estimated that road crashes will cost the global economy $1.8 trillion (in 2010 USD) from 2015 to 2030.
With more people and vehicles sharing the roads, smarter road management and smarter traffic policies are key to saving lives and building safer cities. To meet this growing need, smart cities around the world have started implementing LiDAR to monitor traffic and collect critical data to inform policies and infrastructure changes to protect the safety of pedestrians and cyclists.
LiDAR-based traffic intelligence: how it works
Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) is a time-of-flight sensing technology that emits low-power, eye-safe laser pulses and measures the time it takes for the laser to travel back and forth between the sensor and a target. The resulting data is used to generate 3D point cloud images, providing advanced 3D perception and situational awareness of the scanned area. This data is then analyzed with computer perception software to extract valuable insights and fuel real-time, data-driven decision making.
Installed on roads and at intersections, LiDAR sensors autonomously monitor and collect traffic data, including how and when people and vehicles use this critical infrastructure. For example, LiDAR sensors can identify and count crossing pedestrians, measure vehicle traffic volume, identify speeding and other hazards and much more.
This data can then be compared by time of day, day of week, to identify patterns, predict safety risks, and ultimately inform transportation policies to improve the safety of pedestrians and cyclists. For example, LiDAR sensor data is currently being used in cities to inform decisions and understand key metrics such as:
- How many traffic lights should be installed, and where, to be most effective?
- How long should the pedestrian crossing be?
- What times and days of the week experience the highest traffic and pose the highest security risk?
- What are the most common factors that contribute to security incidents? How can these factors be mitigated or eliminated?
In addition to guiding policy and technology decisions, the collected data can also be used in V2X (Vehicle to Everything) applications and delivered to drivers and passengers to enable real-time decisions on the road.
Five Benefits of LiDAR for Traffic Monitoring
Because LiDAR provides the most accurate and granular 3D data of any other technology, city officials can get a full, detailed picture of what’s happening on the roads and derive actionable insights that don’t. have never been possible with cameras and other sensing technologies. Here are five benefits of LiDAR for intelligent traffic monitoring.
1. Accurate data in any environment
Accuracy is key when lives are at stake. 3D LiDAR sensors provide better than 95% detection accuracy and 24/7 reliability in all lighting and environmental conditions, including rain, snow, wind, dust, fog, sunlight and very low light. For this reason, LiDAR sensors are ideal for outdoor applications such as traffic monitoring and pedestrian crossings.
2. Advanced 3D Perception
Some LiDAR sensors can capture hundreds of data points per second. The level of detail provided by LiDAR allows for greater situational awareness than is possible with cameras or manual data collection. For example, with LiDAR, users can “see” all objects in a scanned area, identify what it is (i.e. a pedestrian, cyclist or vehicle) and accurately measure their location and the speed at which they move. This helps capture a full picture of traffic scenarios and accurately determine how to prevent security incidents.
3. Low total cost of ownership
LiDAR sensors offer a low total cost of ownership compared to alternative technologies. With 360 degree coverage, only a few devices are needed to monitor each traffic area. With a few rugged devices to install and maintain, users can monitor traffic activity and collect critical data across the city for relatively little cost.
4. Versatile Detection Capabilities
LiDAR is a powerful and versatile technology that can handle the varied demands of traffic surveillance applications, from identifying high-speed vehicles on highways to viewing people hidden in blind areas.
5. Zero Risk PII
Any app that tracks and monitors people’s movements will inevitably raise privacy concerns. Fortunately, LiDAR does not capture or store any personally identifiable information (PII), protecting privacy and eliminating the risks associated with PII.
3D LiDAR technology is already being used to protect the safety of pedestrians and cyclists around the world. For example, in 2012, South Korea had the second highest pedestrian fatality rate among OECD countries with 10.8 road fatalities per 100,000 population. Since then, the country has made considerable efforts to succeed in lowering these figures. After implementing these changes in 2017, South Korea recorded fewer pedestrian accidents than the previous five years.
The Smart City Project – Busan, South Korea
Busan, South Korea, is one of the many pilot cities of South Korea’s Smart City project. The road safety issue is an essential part of the country’s broader initiative to build people-centred and future-oriented cities by leveraging technologies and innovations that improve citizens’ safety and quality of life. .
Prior to implementing LiDAR for traffic monitoring, Busan relied on manual data collection methods to understand traffic patterns and inform road policies. However, this process was error prone and required field staff to collect the information, wasting valuable time for less than optimal results. Additionally, the city had considered AI-based CCTV technology; however, CCTV could not provide the data reliability the city needed to manage an application as critical as pedestrian safety. The data city officials were working with just wasn’t accurate enough to make informed decisions that could save lives.
The Smart City project ultimately chose a 3D LiDAR solution to continuously monitor roads and intersections in Busan. Thanks to more accurate data, Busan was able to improve the efficiency of its transport policies. LiDAR has also automated data collection, eliminating the need for manual, error-prone data collection methods.
Pedestrian crossing in school zones – Seoul, South Korea
School zones are a key area of concern for keeping a city’s youngest pedestrians safe. In the local government district of Nowon-Gu in Seoul, South Koreaa LiDAR-based solution provided the data city officials needed to understand and mitigate contributing factors to school zone crashes.
The sensors collected extensive data about each school crossing area, including vehicle traffic patterns, vehicle speeds and pedestrian behavior. For example, the solution can accurately detect a person standing in a blind spot (i.e. behind a parked car), a situation that frequently contributes to accidents involving pedestrians. The data from this deployment served as the basis for new, more efficient traffic policies and helped city authorities choose the best technology to keep pedestrians and drivers safe.
The need for safer roads remains an urgent public health issue and a focal point for smart cities. By leveraging emerging IoT technologies such as LiDAR, cities can better understand how to protect their citizens from harm on the road.
General Becker is vice president, market development and alliances, Quanergy Systems, Inc.