Project seeks volunteers to analyze videos to prevent traffic deaths

Bellevue, Microsoft, UW team up on new safety technology

Would you be willing to help in a cutting-edge effort to help prevent deaths and serious injuries from traffic crashes?

A new collaboration called Video Analytics Towards Vision Zero will tap new technologies to analyze traffic camera video footage available in many cities, and use near-miss collisions to predict where future crashes are likely to occur. Traffic engineers could then take corrective action to prevent them.

Project organizers are encouraging as many people as possible to help by watching traffic camera video and using tracking tools to identify objects and movements. The crowd-sourcing effort is critical to the project's success. The videos and tools are now available on the project web page. Detailed information about the project is available in an ITE Journal article.

The potential of the project for saving lives is significant. In 2016, road crashes resulted in approximately 40,000 deaths and 4.6 million injuries in the United States alone. For young people under age 19, these collisions were the leading cause of death.

"Video analytics turns the traditional model of reacting to crashes on its head. It will give us tools to predict where incidents are going to occur so we can take counter-measures in a proactive way," said Dave Berg, Bellevue Transportation director. "It could be a game-changer, not just for us, but for cities around the world."

As part of the project, crowd-sourced inputs will be used for "machine learning" -- teaching computers how to tell the difference between cars, buses, trucks, motorcycles, bicycles, and pedestrians. Ultimately, instead of a person watching a few hours of video, computer algorithms will analyze millions of hours of footage live, in real time.

The technology uses near-miss collisions as zero-cost learning opportunities to improve road safety. It holds the potential to dramatically reduce the number of crashes by predicting where, when, and how they are likely to occur.