Drivers of trucks equipped with advanced safety systems tend to drive slower in urban settings without alerts or prompts, a new study has found. - Photo: Roberto Lee Cortes

Drivers of trucks equipped with advanced safety systems tend to drive slower in urban settings without alerts or prompts, a new study has found.

Photo: Roberto Lee Cortes

There’s less speeding taking place on American city streets. That’s according to Together for Safer Roads, an organization that works with public and private sector parnters on promoting road safety.

The group's Truck of the Future pilot program has been looking for ways to make roads safer for "vulnerable road users" (such as pedestrians and bicyclists) in urban areas.

In 2021, 84% of the 7,388 pedestrian fatalities recorded occurred in urban areas, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

"The findings from the Truck of the Future pilot program underscore the transformative potential of innovative technologies to make roads safer for vulnerable road users and fleet vehicle drivers alike,” said Peter Goldwasser, executive director of Together for Safer Roads.

Detecting Vulnerable Road Users

The pilot, conducted throughout 2023, showcased promising results in using innovative aftermarket technologies to mitigate potential conflicts between large fleet vehicles and vulnerable road users, the group said.

The Truck of the Future pilot program, a public-private partnership, sought to address this challenge by installing vulnerable road user detection systems on fleet vehicles, giving drivers enhanced visibility and real-time feedback on potential near misses.

The technology, developed by TSR member VisionTrack, uses AI-powered cameras to detect pedestrians, bicyclists, motorcyclists, and scooter users around the vehicle.

Fleets participating in the pilot include The City of New York, with 10 vehicles each from two separate city departments, and AB InBev’s subsidiary in Mexico City, which had 10 vehicles participate in the pilot.

A total of 67,732 alerts were recorded over the course of the pilot program amongst the three participating fleets. Only vulnerable road user detected within 0.8 meters of the vehicle (about 2.6 feet) were flagged to the driver.

This volume of close proximity vulnerable road user alerts underscores the challenges faced by drivers on today’s roads, according to Together for Safer Roads. 

A technology that provides drivers with a 360-degree view of vision around the vehicle and alerts on imminent risks is valuable.

“Video telematics are a vital component of a comprehensive fleet safety plan, especially as it relates to after-market vehicle modifications,” said Matthew Ison, vice president of sales - North America at VisionTrack.

Key Findings from the Pilot Program

Reduction in Speeding

Installation of the vulnerable road user detection system was associated with a decrease in speeding over time, particularly in the most severe “red” category and among outlier speeders, according to TSR. The organization said this finding was surprising, because the system did not directly alert drivers when they were speeding.

The reduction in speeding suggests the system's benefits may go beyond providing indirect vision and detection alerts, to creating positive behavioral shifts among drivers toward safer practices.

Increased Awareness of Vulnerable Road Users

Drivers in the pilot program demonstrated greater awareness of vulnerable road users over time. 

In one fleet, the proportion of VRU alerts that occurred while the driver was speeding decreased over time, suggesting that drivers consciously slowed down in areas where a VRU was likely to be detected.

Meanwhile, a NYC department saw more alerts during warmer months, when more people were out, showing the system's importance in busy areas.

AB InBev’s fleet saw an approximately 50% reduction in the number of VRU alerts over the first three months of the pilot, possibly due to changes in driver behavior.

These results highlight how the system could help drivers be more aware and avoid incidents, making roads safer overall, according to TSR.

Positive Feedback

  • Both drivers and managers provided positive qualitative feedback on the effectiveness of the VRU detection system. Nine out of 10 drivers surveyed thought the alerts would help prevent a crash.
  • In a survey of managers/admin users post-pilot, both NYC (with a rating of 5 out of 5) and AB InBev managers (with a rating of 4.8 out of 5) felt that the cameras and alert systems were very helpful in making the roads safer.

“These findings reaffirm our dedication to implementing cutting-edge solutions to protect pedestrians and cyclists on our streets," said Keith Kerman, NYC chief fleet officer, "while also aligning with other key actions the city is undertaking, including the recent mayoral executive order that addresses visual obstructions for truck operators in New York City."

"As a corporate participant with one of the larger global fleets, and as a founding member of Together for Safer Roads, we are encouraged by the positive outcomes of the Truck of the Future pilot program,” said Catalina Garcia Gomez, global director of corporate affairs at AB InBev. “This initiative aligns with our commitment to promoting responsible and safe driving practices among our drivers."

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