How Intelligent Vehicle Technologies Can Improve Vulnerable Road User Safety at Signalized Intersections

Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of accidental deaths in the US. In 2020, 38,824 people lost their lives in car-related crashes. Bicyclists and pedestrians are particularly susceptible—7,448 of these “vulnerable road users” were killed nationwide in 2020, and 29% of all reported crash-related fatalities in California were vulnerable road users. A variety of intelligent vehicle technologies hold promise for improving bicycle and pedestrian safety. Sensors in vehicles and/or used by vulnerable road users themselves could alert travelers of potential conflicts, giving them more time to react. However, these technologies all have unique technical, operational, and financial characteristics, and they might perform differently in different environmental conditions and at different levels of deployment. Little research has been done on how these technologies might affect safety. Researchers at the University of California, Davis combined aggregate historical crash data analysis and micro transportation simulation to examine the safety impacts of four different intelligent vehicle technologies: blind spot detection, a vulnerable-road-user beacon system carried by bicyclists or pedestrians, bicycle/pedestrian-to-vehicle communication, and intersection safety.