June 14, 2018 10:15 AM, EDT

DOT Debuts Contest to Develop Innovative Ways to Analyze Crash Data

Concerned about a rise in highway fatalities in recent years, the U.S. Department of Transportation is launching a contest for cash prizes with the goal of finding “innovative analytical visualization tools” that will reveal insights into serious crashes and improve understanding of transportation safety.

The “Solving for Safety Visualization Challenge” is intended to serve as a platform to compel technology and data firms, transportation stakeholders and state and local agencies to develop innovative new data visualization tools, according to DOT.

The challenge prize purse is $350,000, with four semi-finalists competing for a portion of the $100,000 interim prize and two final-stage “solvers” competing for a portion of the $250,000 final prize, according to a June 13 Federal Register pre-publication announcement by DOT.

“In 2017, motor vehicle traffic crashes resulted in an estimated 37,150 fatalities,” the announcement said. “Comprehensively, crashes are a societal harm that costs the nation over $800 billion annually in lives lost or injured as well as lost work productivity and property damage.”

“The USDOT’s transportation safety programs have decades of research and design behind them and have proven effective in reducing injuries and fatalities by 40% between 1990 and 2011. In recent years, these advances have leveled off, and new insights and strategies are required to make further advances.” DOT said the challenge is open to individuals and teams from the business and research communities, including technology companies, analytics firms, transportation carriers, industry associations, research institutions, universities and mapping and visualization providers. The cash prizes will be awarded throughout the multistage challenge.

The scheduled kick-off date is June 14. After the launch, DOT will accept Stage I submissions up until 11:59 pm EDT on July 31, 2018. A panel of judges will review team submissions and announce Stage I finalists in August 2018.

The agency said that traditional factors do not fully explain the causes of the recent uptick in traffic fatalities.

“Increases in driving are one factor; however, the rate of fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles traveled also increased from 1.08 fatalities per 100 million VMT in 2014 to an estimated 1.17 in 2017,” DOT said. “Economic conditions, gasoline prices, weather and other factors are also correlated with increased traffic fatalities.”

DOT said it seeks to reverse the current trend, rapidly detect changes that indicate unsafe conditions and reduce transportation-related fatalities and serious injuries across the transportation system.

“One pillar of this approach is data visualization,” DOT said. “DOT seeks clear, compelling data visualization tools that make data analysis and insights accessible to policy-makers, transportation providers and the public who make safety choices every day.”