San Jose, CA Tests Lidar To Reduce Pedestrian Fatalities

San Jose, CA is testing the use of lidar technology on local streets in an attempt to reduce the number of pedestrian deaths. The technology – from Velodyne Lidar – will augment the city’s camera-based road-monitoring systems with its laser-based technology that can quickly generate 3D representations of the environment. The lidar technology will aid in identifying near-misses, a crucial data point in understanding the problems the city faces.

“In order to really understand how and why these crashes are happening, we need an ecosystem of different types of sensors at our most vulnerable intersections and corridors to capture near-misses of pedestrians,” San Jose Chief Innovation Officer, Clay Garner, said. “We know when a collision happens because there’s a police report and a medical report and that is a cataloged data point, but that is only a fraction of the close calls on our streets every day.”

San Jose – a city of approximately 1 million residents – is facing its worst year on record for pedestrian deaths. The Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition has claimed that neighborhoods with large black populations have double the rate of pedestrian deaths, which is thought to be caused by receiving less public investment and traffic-calming measures than other areas of the city. According to the Governors Highway Safety Association, pedestrian deaths around the US increased 5% in 2020. The increase is in part attributed to the pandemic, with its increased anxiety levels and drivers becoming accustomed to relatively empty streets.

Garner notes that the use of more data, technology, and automation will aid in solving some of the city’s problems, but the data received still needs to be processed and analyzed.

“We can have millions of well-placed sensors throughout our cities, but without AI or [machine learning]-enabled systems to be able to use that information at scale, it’s not going to be so useful to us,” Garner said.