If you had a choice, would you select speed over safety?
Road safety is generally a topic that sits quite high up on the agenda of companies and authorities. There is, however, a blind spot that no one seems to be particularly interested in – the safety of cyclists. With our new pet project, The Safe Route, we aim to reduce the number of bicycle accidents by suggesting cyclists the safest route instead of the fastest.
When taking on a project, our starting point is always a clearly defined problem. We develop the problem based on solid research and relevant data, and from that, we decide what should be done. The latest problem we have identified is road safety for cyclists.
Traffic safety is not a new phenomenon and it is reasonable to claim that Sweden has been a pioneering country in this area. In 1997, the Swedish Transport Administration launched Vision Zero, an initiative with the goal that no one should be killed or seriously injured as the result of traffic accidents in Sweden.
Over the years, Volvo has also been at the forefront regarding road safety. With innovations like the three-point seat belt and the E.V.A. Initiative, it’s quite clear they have had security as their focus. These are all great things, but we have found a blind spot that no one seems to care about.
Why the fastest route falls short where it counts
When it comes to finding routes from point A to B, what is typically the main focus?
Yes – speed. It seems that we are almost obsessed with the idea of getting there as quickly as possible.
I know we live in a world where time is our most valuable currency, but with your hand on your heart: How often are you in such a big hurry that it’s reasonable to choose speed over safety? Quite rarely, I would guess.
But the problem is that there is no real alternative at hand. Your options are very limited: the fastest is the default, and sometimes you may have the luxury of picking the shortest route. And this is where our idea – The Safe Route – steps into the picture.
The Safe Route is a service that uses a number of relevant data sources to direct the user to – yes, you guessed it – the safest route. It's currently based on accident reports provided by the Swedish Transport Agency, and a preferred next step would be to add more relevant data points, such as weather, road surface and how busy various streets are. Other potential traffic hazards, such as intersections, left turns, and roundabouts, are also taken into account.
With The Safe Route, we wanted to use our expertise, knowledge, and methods to help increase traffic safety for cyclists and get more people to pick the bike as their choice of vehicle. If we get there, we will have succeeded.
Does society benefit from more people switching to cycling? Yes, in several ways: Bicycles do not emit any carbon dioxide and they reduce our dependence on fossil fuels. On top of that, they contribute to a positive development of public health and help make cities less congested.
This is not the first time we involve ourselves in a project intending to contribute to the benefit of society – see for example how we’ve used a robot to help teach autistic children sign language, or created a service to help consumers make more sustainable choices.
How you can contribute to the safety of cyclists
We want The Safe Route to have a long life and develop over time. And we know from experience that a successful outcome depends on the contribution of insights, ideas, and knowledge from people with other areas of expertise.
So please give The Safe Route a try, and if you have an idea on how to make an even bigger impact with it, please give us a call – we want to do this together!
- Johan LauriData & AI Tech Lead and Senior Tech Advisor, Futurice