BATON ROUGE, La. — Researchers at Louisiana State University (LSU) have been awarded almost $1 million in grant funds from the U.S. Department of Transportation and Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) to study why commercial vehicle accidents happen.
The money will be used to construct an artificial intelligence (AI) to review the types of driver behavior that lead to crashes, according to a news release from LSU’s Center for Analytics and Research in Transportation Safety (CARTS).
“We have very good information on crashes on roads. But we don’t have information regarding driving behavior on roads that may lead to crashes. This grant will help to provide information about driver behavior on roads, especially around commercial vehicles,” said Helmut Schneider, CARTS executive director and the Ourso Family Distinguished Professor of Information Systems in the E. J. Ourso College of Business.
Schneider is the lead principal investigator on this project.
As is the case around the U.S., the number of fatal crashes involving big trucks is on the rise in Louisiana.
From 2020 to 2021, the number jumped by more than 28% — from 89 to 114, according to CARTS Director Cory Hutchinson, who is a co-principal investigator on the project.
In the U.S., the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that fatalities involving large trucks surged to 5,600 deaths in 2021, up from 2020’s total of 4,965.
“I’ve known people who have survived car crashes, especially those involving large, commercial trucks, and I know they can be devastating,” said computer scientist Supratik Mukhopadhyay, who is an LSU Department of Environmental Science professor and co-principal investigator on this grant.
Based on an AI engine trained by Mukhopadhyay, the researchers will analyze videos obtained from video cameras to identify high-risk traffic situations around commercial vehicles.
With more than $950,000 in support from the U.S. Department of Transportation, the researchers will be able to build dashboards that provide insights into what factors contribute to crashes with commercial motor vehicles and how distracted driving plays a role, the news release noted.
“For instance, a couple of years ago there was an increase in sideswipe crashes with commercial trucks on Interstate 10 in New Orleans,” Schneider said. “It was suspected that some may have been staged by car drivers. These types of crashes could be identified by cameras. Analyzing videos using AI will further help us as researchers to better understand what leads to a crash.”
The two-year project will culminate in data dashboards that identify major risk factors that cause crashes to help inform where and when resources can best be deployed to reduce vehicle crashes.
During his tenure as U.S. transportation secretary, Pete Buttigieg has said that a chief goal is reducing the number highway crashes, especially those that involve commercial vehicles.
In October, he met with families of truck crash victims to discuss ways to make big rigs and the trucking industry safer.
Among the initiatives discussed were the NHTSA’s proposal to require automatic emergency braking (AEB) technologies, including pedestrian AEB on passenger vehicles and AEB on heavy trucks, as well as the FMCSA’s proposal to require speed limiters on big rigs.
On Nov. 20, Buttigieg participated in the World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims (WDR), saying that “we mourn those who have lost their lives in traffic crashes.”
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