Center for Safety Equity in Transportation

rural • isolated • tribal • indigenous

Drones for Improving Traffic Safety of the RITI Communities in Washington State

  • Active

    CSET Project #: 1804

    Project Funding: CSET and University of Washington

  • Start Date: July 2018

    End Date: September 2019

Principal Investigator(s)

Jeff Ban

Transportation network system modeling and simulation; urban traffic system modeling and operations; intelligent transportation systems (ITS)

Dan Abramson

 My experience in community-engaged planning, research, and design – mostly with immigrant, low-income, indigenous, or otherwise marginalized communities – ranges from Boston to the American and Canadian Pacific Northwest, and from Poland to China and Japan.

John Scott

Cynthia Chen

Yinhai Wang

Dr. Yinhai Wang is a professor in transportation engineering and the founding director of the Smart Transportation Applications and Research Laboratory (STAR Lab) at the University of Washington (UW). He also serves as director for Pacific Northwest Transportation Consortium (PacTrans), USDOT University Transportation Center for Federal Region 10 and visiting chair for the Traffic Information and Control Department at Harbin Institute of Technology. He has a Ph.D. in transportation engineering from the University of Tokyo (1998), a master's degree in computer science from the UW, and another master’s degree in construction management (1991) and a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering (1989) from Tsinghua University in China. Dr. Wang’s active research fields include traffic sensing, e-science of transportation, big-data analytics, traffic operations and simulation, smart urban mobility, transportation safety, etc. He has published over 120 peer reviewed journal articles and delivered more than 130 invited talks and nearly 220 other academic presentations.

Dr. Wang serves as a member of the Transportation Information Systems and Technology Committee and Highway Capacity and Quality of Service Committee of the Transportation Research Board (TRB). He is currently a member of the steering committee for the IEEE Smart Cities and an elected governor for the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) Transportation and Development Institute (T&DI), scheduled to serve as president of ASCE T&DI in 2018. He is a co-chair of the Third IEEE International Smart Cities Conference to be held in Wuxi China in 2017 and the ASCE International Conference on Transportation and Development to be held in Indianapolis in 2018. He was a principal investigator for 75 important research projects with a total amount of funding over 51 million dollars. Additionally, Dr. Wang is associate editor for three journals: Journal of ITS, Journal of Computing in Civil Engineering, and Journal of Transportation Engineering. He was the winner of the ASCE Journal of Transportation Engineering Best Paper Award for 2003.

Project Summary

In this research, we aim to explore and synthesize the opportunities, challenges, and scenarios that drone technologies may help develop context-sensitive solutions to resolve traffic safety related challenges in RITI communities. Although drones have been extensively tested in both urban and rural areas for various purposes (e.g., search and rescue, deliveries, etc.), their uses in RITI communities have not been fully explored. As a promising emerging technology, drones may help provide economic and effective solutions to solve safety challenges. However, drones also have their own limitations that need to be aware of, in particular when applied to RITI communities. More importantly, it is crucial to first understand the unique traffic safety needs and challenges in RITI communities. For this, we will conduct data collection by proper communications with residents and representatives of the communities. In this process, we need to consider the unique cultural characteristics of the communities, as well as their specific social/economic/education resource limitations. Synthesizing state of the art drone technologies and the identified community safety needs/challenges can help reveal specific situations under which drones may help develop a viable solution.

This project focuses on two neighboring RITI communities, Aberdeen and Hoquiam, on the Pacific Ocean, Located in the Olympic peninsula. The two communities are historically supported by timber, ship-building and canning industries that have been undergoing a long-term decline. They currently face many social and economic challenges including high unemployment and poverty, low education, and residential instability. For example, the proportion of the Aberdeen’s residents who live below the poverty level (18%) is almost double of the state average (10.9%). Traffic safety issues as identified previously (such as high accident and fatality rates) exacerbate the social/economic challenges in the two RITI communities, calling for specific and effective solutions that at the same time respect the culture and tradition of the community residents.