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Grant supports work with 'big data' that aims to make roadways safer

Ashley Hirtzel
Adel Sadek

Researchers at the University at Buffalo have been awarded funds to continue a program working to improve roadways across the country. The $1.4 million grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation will help researchers collect ‘big data’ that can help deal with a range of transportation issues.

UB has been working with Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, RPI, George Mason University and the University of Puerto Rico to bring together data collected in their respective cities.

UB’s Institute for Sustainable Transportation and Logistics has been gathering info from Niagara International Transportation Technology Coalition or NITTEC traffic cameras, EZ-Pass lanes, and readers attached to roadways.

The data is being used to estimate the longevity of highways and bridges, and help target vehicle accident hot spots.

UB Professor in the Department of Civil, Structural, and Environmental Engineering Adel Sadek is spearheading Buffalo’s transportation project. He says the information will help them reduce roadway congestion.

“Statistics tell us that each one of us spends one hour per day engaged in activity related to transportation, transportation also serves as a foundation for economic development.  In Buffalo for example we have the border crossings and we did some research to try and come up with methods to predict the delay at the border, so this could be very useful information for people, as-well as really for trucking companies and freight companies to plan ahead,” said Sadek.

The funds will allow researchers to dip into data collected from GPS units, Smartphones, and other electronic devices. The grant is also helping the collaboration deliver a study of driving patterns.

Sadek says thousands of vehicles in western New York have been equipped with cameras and sensors that read the interaction between driver, vehicle and road conditions.  

“Nationwide there are 32,000 people, unfortunately killed in highway accidents every year, 2 million people injured every year, so it’s a huge number and if you start counting the suffering, and even the economic cost of that it really becomes a huge problem of national concern,” said Sadek.

Sadek says the information may also help drivers map out routes that are better for fuel economy, and in turn, reduce vehicle emissions. The information UB collects from Buffalo will help improve other cities transportation systems, as well as its own.

WBFO/Western New York reporter for the Innovation Trail.
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