I-STREET Initiative – Evaluation of Intelligent School Zone Beacon and Vehicle-Cyclist Detection and Warning System
This study evaluated a smartphone-based application (app) with the capability to alert drivers when they exceed a given speed threshold in an active school zone. An additional component alerted drivers when they approached a cyclist and there was a collision risk. This vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I) technology, tested in 2019 in Gainesville, FL, relies on intelligent school zone beacons that send signals to the servers connected to a smartphone-based app available to travelers for downloading. If the speed threshold that is set in the app is exceeded by a driver while within the school zone “geo fence”, an alert is triggered. A secondary service provided by this same app sends alerts about bicyclists (irrespective of whether they are in the school zone or not), which works provided that both the driver and the bicyclist have the app open.
This project involved an experimental study conducted in Gainesville, FL in 2019 to evaluate a commercially available speed-monitoring smartphone app. Trajectory and eye-tracking data from 50 participants were collected from March through May. Each participant drove a 5.7-mile-long route twice. In each lap, participants drove through four school zones with one staged cyclist. The app was configured to trigger an alert when the driver exceeded 20 mph in a school zone. The driving subjects were randomized across three conditions: (i) Stealth/Off condition (drivers did not receive any alerts), (ii) Audio On (drivers received audio alerts), and (iii) Audio/Visual On (drivers received both audio and visual alerts).
- The probability of instantaneous speeds exceeding 20 mph at each school zone were estimated to be up to 35 percent lower (36 percent without, 1 percent with ‘audio/visual on’) when the app was in use compared to Stealth/Off mode.
- When in the stealth mode, the app triggered in over 50 percent of the instances of driving through the school zone, which reduced to 38 percent in the case of ‘audio-on’ condition and 46 percent in the ‘audio-visual on’ condition.
- The percentage of trips where the driver looked at the flashing school zone beacons located at the side of the road increased by up to 12 percent when the app was turned on compared to off mode (74.44 percent with the app versus 61.57 percent without the app).
- The percentage of drivers who looked at the cyclist during the first trip around the experimental route at least once or more was greater whenever the app was on (16.67 percent without, 50 and 33.33 percent with ‘audio on’ and with ‘audio/visual on’, respectively). However, ‘audio on’ might be considered more effective than ‘audio/visual on’, possibly because the alert itself drew the driver’s attention away from the cyclist, thus bringing down the percentage of trips where the cyclist was looked at from 50 percent to 33 percent.