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Strategy and Technology Tracking Structure

Task B3-3: Identify CMF Research Needs

Structure for Tracking New Safety Strategies and Technologies

Background

A method is needed to track new strategies and technologies as they are developed and deployed on our Nation’s roadways.  The expected safety performance of the strategy or technology in the form of a crash modification factor (CMF) or similar is needed so that State and local agencies can make sound decisions about implementation. Crash modification factor development requires that the strategy or technology be implemented at several locations and the safety performance of the implementations be measured and quantified. Once a strategy or technology is introduced, it may be years until there are sufficient implementations to conduct a statistically rigorous evaluation. However, there may be other useful performance information that can inform decisions about implementation and may encourage implementation. Pertinent performance information may include simulator studies, studies based on international implementations, test track deployments, surrogate measures (e.g., change in speed in response to the treatment), simple before/after evaluations, and anecdotal information. Therefore, tracking strategies and technologies from the introduction of the idea in the United States through full-scale deployments and evaluations is beneficial. Currently, there is no large-scale mechanism to track these strategies and technologies.

Development of a Mechanism

Strategies and technologies will have varied paths from idea to full-scale deployment, but most will have several steps in between. A tracking mechanism could follow the strategy or technology through several potential stages, including:

  • Identification of a need. 
  • Introduction of the concept and discussion of the potential to fulfill a need.
  • Development of an operations concept.
  • Testing of the concept in a simulated environment.
  • Pilot implementation on a test track or other closed environment.
  • Product introduction to the market.
  • Pilot field implementation through request to experiment process or similar.
  • Acceptance for use by related governing body. 
  • Small-scale field implementation and testing.
  • Analysis of small-scale implementation for indirect or surrogate measures.
  • Simple crash-based analysis of small-scale implementation.
  • Several implementations by one agency.
  • Implementation by several agencies in multiple environments. 
  • Statistically rigorous evaluation of the safety performance. 

Several of these stages relate to implementation while others relate to evaluation, although the two aspects are closely related. A tracking mechanism could address both of these aspects. The mechanism could also identify communication points, such as Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) approval. Table 1 presents a simplified layout for a tracking mechanism.

Table 1. Tracking Mechanism for New Strategies and Technologies.
Strategy or TechnologyPotential OpportunityCurrent Implementation StatusCurrent Monitoring
Strategy XYZStrategy is designed to prevent run-off-road crashes.Strategy implemented in one State (AnyState, USA) at five sites.AnyState DOT is conducting a before-after study of the impact of the strategy on speeds.
Strategy QRSStrategy is designed to increase the visibility of pedestrians at unsignalized crossings.Strategy was demonstrated at the American Traffic Safety Services Association (ATSSA) meeting. It has not been installed in the United States.Vendor has agreed to contact FHWA before installing in the United States.

Populating the Tracking Mechanism

Information on the current state of new strategies and technologies is held by somewhat disparate groups: vendors, State and local practitioners, university researchers, private consultants, and several Federal agencies. A successful tracking must have the ability to access and assemble information from this wide range of sources.  
Potential venues or sources for this information include:

  • Trade shows and expositions at major conferences, including the ATSSA meeting, Transportation Research Board (TRB) annual meeting, and Institute of Transportation Engineers (ITE) annual meeting, among others. There is great potential for future coordination with ATSSA, and it may be possible to initiate conversations regarding a roundtable discussion at the ATSSA 2015 annual meeting. ATSSA has an invited Circle of Innovation portion to their annual meeting that may be appropriate.
  • Monitoring LISTSERVs that are used by practitioners to discuss their experiences with safety strategies and technologies.
  • FHWA Request to Experiment Database maintained by the FHWA Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) Team.
  • Vendor product and technology marketing material made publicly available for marketing purposes.
  • Anecdotal information reported by States on their experiences. 
  • Research findings presented at major conferences or published in leading journals. As the tracking is focused on new technology, these research findings would not include CMF research. Instead, the research of interest would include noncrash-based studies of the new technology, such as studies of the effect on operations (e.g., speed) and other surrogate measures (e.g., conflicts) through simulation, pilot demonstrations, or limited field implementation.

The tracking mechanism could be populated with the information from these sources using one or more methods, including: (1) a directed activity under the DCMF contract (either through A6 or a new Task B); (2) a separate FHWA or National Cooperative Highway Research Program NCHRP initiative; and/or (3) crowdsourcing. Note that it may be possible to use multiple methods to populate the tracking mechanism. For example, it may be desirable to employ crowdsourcing as the primary method with oversight from some entity, and utilize a technical support contractor to track known strategies and implementations. These three methods and the associated pros and cons are described in the following sections.

DCMF Contract

A task could be initiated (either A6 or a new Task B) under the DCMF contract to populate the tracking mechanism. Members of the contract project team would explore each of the potential sources to identify this information. For example, a member of the project team would attend one or more national trade shows (such as ATSSA) and actively pursue this information from the exhibit floor, visiting vendors to discuss their new strategies and technologies, and collect ancillary product material. The findings of this would be populated into the tracking mechanism and date stamped. This could be supplemented by reviews of publicly available vendor marketing materials, such as Web sites and product brochures. Concurrently, implementation information would be collected from practitioners by querying LISTSERVs or potentially conducting surveys.

The advantages of this method are that there is an existing contract mechanism in place, the task is related to the overall goals of the contract, and the contract team has extensive contacts in the community that would support this work. The disadvantage of this method is that it might need to include a survey, which would require Office of Management and Budget approval. Additionally, the information collected would need to be maintained after the task and contract ended.  

FHWA or NCHRP Initiatives

Similar to the DCMF method, another FHWA contract or NCHRP initiative could be used to collect the information using a similar method. The advantage of this is that there may be an opportunity to tie into other related efforts. The disadvantage of this is that it might require a new contract mechanism, a survey may also be needed, and again, the information will need to be maintained after the contract ends. 

Crowdsourcing

Crowdsourcing is the practice of obtaining needed services, ideas, or content by soliciting contributions from a large group of people, and especially from an online community, rather than from traditional employees or suppliers. Using this method, an editable version of the tracking table would be posted in a publicly available location, such as on a Wikipage or similar.  The advantages of this method are that it casts the widest possible net and may be very inexpensive. The disadvantage is that the quality of the information may be lower and there is no incentive to populate the data.

Updated: Monday, December 2, 2019