Article by our CEO Mark Goodstein for the National Safer Roads' Partnerships' Conference 2023
Published with permission from organizers Road Safety Support.
Measuring Safety in Context
I first met the people of Road Safety Support at the end of 2021, but it was only when I travelled to their 2022 conference in Manchester that I truly understood the mission, intent, and seriousness of the organisation and its members. It was then, too, that I understood how compatible Streetscope’s mission and purpose are with RSS’s. We wish to apply technology to objectively evaluate the traffic safety of drivers, roads, and infrastructure since we believe - as does RSS - that measuring is the first necessary step to improving safety meaningfully.
The UK has made significant progress in reducing road casualties over the years. In 2021, Great Britain suffered a total of 27,450 reported fatalities and severe injuries on the roads, a 24% reduction from 2011. Successive governments have implemented road safety policies and initiatives to reduce accidents and improve safety, focusing on areas like speed management, road infrastructure improvements, public awareness campaigns, and stricter enforcement of traffic laws. Yet more needs to be done; while the European Union saw a 31% reduction in fatalities from 2011 to 2021, Great Britain’s decrease was only 18%
Statistics matter, of course, but they have a tragic flaw. By definition, they only look backwards, where nothing can be done to change the outcome. Our Streetscope Hazard Measure (SHM) continuously measures traffic safety, specifically traffic interactions, while they’re happening. Not after the fact. Every tick of the clock, we measure the hazard posed between all pairs of traffic actors, including cars, trucks, pedestrians, and cyclists. This allows us to provide actionable safety insights to our customers in insurance, infrastructure planning, and vehicle system design. Management guru Peter Drucker is often credited with saying, “If you can’t measure something, you can’t manage it.” That applies, tragically, to traffic accidents. Witness the minimum reduction in the number of pedestrian casualties on streets globally and the countless years spent focusing on well-meaning programmes like Vision Zero, a laudable target but not a plan for day-to-day action. Now, for the first time, there’s a system that can continuously measure traffic safety in order to manage it. SHM is, finally, the tool needed by those working to mitigate the causes driving this daily carnage the world over.
But the measure of hazard – and the resulting baselines of human behaviour one can calculate with such a measure – differs greatly depending on location. Driving is a social interaction; we drive and make decisions based on what we think others in the street scene will do, moment to moment. Your experience driving in Manchester or Paris will be markedly different from that of driving in Los Angeles or Mumbai. Streetscope captures these differences automatically, allowing road authorities, traffic planners, and functional safety engineers the objective foundation to make better decisions about their respective domains.
New technologies allow safety actors to monitor and study traffic conditions with incredible detail. We, at Streetscope, are proudly part of this new technological wave that promises to create safer roads for all. But we need the local intel that organisations such as RSS provide. They are our eyes on the road in areas far from our headquarters, where our SHM technology can be tested. That includes areas such as Carlisle, where, with the support of RSS, we are conducting our first UK trial this summer. Because, while the experience of driving is different in the Roman-founded roads in central Carlisle than on the straight, sunny roads of California, where Streetscope is based, the ultimate goal is the same: safer roads for all.
Mark Goodstein — Co-founder & CEO, Streetscope
Photo by RSS