Turbotodd

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Crashing While Driving While Texting

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So I watched the Chairman of the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board, Deborah Hersman, last night as she made the rounds on the news channels about the NTSB Safety Board’s recommendation for a nationwide ban on driver use of personal electronic devices (PEDs) while operating a motor vehicle.

Though I know there will be lots of business interests, not to mention political ones, against such a ban, I thought the Chairman made a compelling argument, and as I delved into some of the details and case studies that informed the board’s recommendations, it became even more difficult to argue with.

Mostly.  But more on that later.

Mind you, this is my take on the situation, and I’m sure there are lots of other points of view that I hope this announcement instigates some discussion around, and of course, I only speak for myself here.

But first, let’s survey some of the facts and incidents the board cited in the press release it issued around its decision:

  • On August 5, 2010, on a section of Interstate 44 in Gray Summit, Missouri, a pickup truck ran into the back of a truck-tractor that had slowed due to an active construction zone. The pickup truck, in turn, was struck from behind by a school bus. That school bus was then hit by a second school bus that had been following. As a result, two people died and 38 others were injured.
  • The NTSB’s investigation revealed that the pickup driver sent and received 11 text messages in the 11 minutes preceding the accident. The last text was received moments before the pickup struck the truck-tractor.
  • The Missouri accident is the most recent distraction accident the NTSB has investigated. However, the first investigation involving distraction from a wireless electronic device occurred in 2002, when a novice driver, distracted by a conversation on her cell phone, veered off the roadway in Largo, Maryland, crossed the median, flipped the car over, and killed five people.

These were just a couple of the initially cited incidents.  The Board came loaded for bear with a variety of others:

  • In 2004, an experienced motorcoach driver, distracted on his hands-free cell phone, failed to move to the center lane and struck the underside of an arched stone bridge on the George Washington Parkway in Alexandria, Virginia. Eleven of the 27 high school students were injured
  • In the 2008 collision of a commuter train with a freight train in Chatsworth, California, the commuter train engineer, who had a history of using his cell phone for personal communications while on duty, ran a red signal while texting. That train collided head on with a freight train – killing 25 and injuring dozens.
  • In 2009, two airline pilots were out of radio communication with air traffic control for more than an hour because they were distracted by their personal laptops. They overflew their destination by more than 100 miles, only realizing their error when a flight attendant inquired about preparing for arrival.
  • In Philadelphia in 2010, a barge being towed by a tugboat ran over an amphibious “duck” boat in the Delaware River, killing two Hungarian tourists. The tugboat mate failed to maintain a proper lookout due to repeated use of a cell-phone and laptop computer;
  • In 2010, near Munfordville, Kentucky, a truck-tractor in combination with a 53-foot-long trailer, left its lane, crossed the median and collided with a 15-passenger van. The truck driver failed to maintain control of his vehicle because he was distracted by use of his cell-phone. The accident resulted in 11 fatalities

So what about the recommendation?  It specifically calls for the 50 states and the District of Columbia to ban the nonemergency use of portable electronic devices (other than those designed to support the driving task, like GPS devices) for all drivers.

The safety recommendation also urges use of the NHTSA model of high-visibility enforcement to support these bans and implementation of targeted communications campaigns to inform motorists of the new law and heightened enforcement.

‘According to NHTSA, more than 3,000 people lost their lives last year in distraction-related accidents”, said Chairman Deborah A.P. Hersman. “It is time for all of us to stand up for safety by turning off electronic devices when driving.”

“No call, no text, no update, is worth a human life.”

Controversial?  No doubt.  Sensible?  Largely.

Once upon a time, I used to find myself on occasion texting and driving, particularly on the freeway, until a couple of times I nearly rear-ended someone.  Then, I very quickly came to my own empirical conclusion that driving while texting was not conducive to “smarter driving” and went back to enjoying my car stereo.

As far as the complete and entire ban on voice discussions in the car, particularly considering the introduction of technologies like OnStar and Lynx — which make voice communications much more seamless and integrated into the overall driving experience (volume control on the steering wheel, voice activation and dialing, etc.) — I’m curious if maybe there could be some more research to help fully understand the safety and economic impact of such a robust ban.

But in any case, I do think the NTSB Safety Board is heading in the right direction, so to speak, and to put the exclamation point on the report, the report cited a Virginia Tech Transportation Institute study of commercial drivers which found that a safety-critical event is 163 times more likely if a driver is texting, emailing, or accessing the Internet.

163 times!  You can go here to see more about the NTSB report and recommendation.

So, not to be scientific or anything, I’m looking to elicit input from the crowd in the following poll on what your thoughts are regarding the NTSB announcement.  Vote early and often!

Don’t Even THINK About Parking Here: The First Ever IBM Global Parking Survey

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Considering that traffic congestion has been an ongoing theme during my week in Bangalore, it only stands to reason that parking follows.

IBM just released its first ever parking survey, and Bangalore made the top, or near the top, on a couple of key metrics. It was first in terms of most parking tickets issued, and second (only to New Delhi) in terms of cities where drivers argued most over parking spaces.

They have parking spaces in Bangalore??

I jest, but not being able to find a parking space is no laughing matter: Which is why these results are so disturbing these results: The study found that drivers in 20 international cities face a daily struggle in finding a parking space, and in the past year, nearly six out of 10 drivers have abandoned their search for a space at least once, and more than a quarter have gotten into an argument with a fellow motorist over a parking space!

Calgon, take me away!

In addition to the typical traffic congestion caused by daily commutes and gridlock from construction and accidents, reports have estimated that over 30 percent of traffic in a city is caused by drivers searching for a parking spot.

So not only do inefficient parking systems result in congestion and increased carbon emissions, they also waste commuters’ time, lead to lost productivity and economic opportunities and can lead to inefficient city services.

IBM Global Parking Index

IBM compiled the results of the survey into its first-ever Parking Index that ranks the emotional and economic toll of parking in a cross-section of 20 international cities with the highest number being the most onerous.

The Index reveals a wide range in the parking pain experienced from city to city. Chicago had the least pain when it comes to parking in the cities studied, followed by Los Angeles and Toronto.

Here’s how the cities stack up: New Delhi: 140; Bangalore 138; Beijing 124; Moscow 122; Shenzhen 122; Paris 122; Milan 117; Nairobi 111; Madrid: 104; Singapore 97; Mexico City: 97; Stockholm: 90; Johannesburg: 87; London: 86; New York City: 85; Montreal: 85; Buenos Aires: 80; Toronto: 77; Los Angeles: 61; and Chicago: 51.

Click to enlarge image. IBM's first ever global parking survey found that drivers in 20 international cities face a daily struggle in finding a parking space. In the past year, nearly six out of 10 drivers have abandoned their search for a space at least once, and more than a quarter have gotten into an argument with a fellow motorist over a parking space.

The IBM Parking Index is comprised of the following key issues: 1) longest amount of time looking for a parking place; 2) inability to find a parking place; 3) disagreement over parking spots; 4) received a parking ticket for illegal parking and 5) number of parking tickets received.

In a related announcement, IBM is working in partnership with Streetline, a privately held company headquartered in San Francisco with smart-parking deployments in California, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Texas, Utah, and Washington D.C.

Streetline was recently named one of Fast Company’s “10 Most Innovative Companies in Transportation,” as well as, to help cities of all sizes reduce congestion, better manage parking availability and resources and put information at people’s fingertips to find parking faster.

Streetline was selected from more than 600 SmartCamp entries worldwide based on its outstanding technology, innovative business plan, and alignment with IBM’s Smarter Planet strategy.

Combining information management and advanced analytics from IBM with data gathered from parking sensors and applications from Streetline will allow cities to make smarter and more timely decisions related to parking and their transportation systems.

Officials will be able to use this smarter parking solution to better understand parking patterns so they can improve citizen services, optimize revenue and more effectively allocate city resources.

In the future, insight from the historical and real-time data being gathered can help cities become more proactive in anticipating how parking and their transportation network interacts with other city services and plan accordingly from how it might affect economic development and merchant services to how to appropriately schedule mass transit to how best to plan around infrastructure projects or special events.

Who Moved My Parking Space? Parking Reinvented

As the majority of the world’s population moves to metropolitan areas, key city systems, including city streets and transportation systems, are being strained to the breaking point.

Additionally, vehicle emissions resulting from drivers looking for parking are so closely linked that a year-long study found that drivers in a 15 block district in Los Angeles drove in excess of 950,000 miles, produced 730 tons of carbon dioxide and used 47,000 gallons of gas searching for parking.

The Smarter Parking Starter Kit is a pre-integrated solution that includes instrumentation, connectivity and intelligence. This solution is designed to help cities “get out of park” and improve parking services, optimize operations and help reduce congestion. By leveraging advanced technologies from IBM and Streetline cities will be able to:

  • Provide real-time information to allow citizens and visitors to find parking more easily
  • Gather, analyze and act on information about parking resources and services to optimize revenue
  • Analyze real-time information to better model and anticipate problems to reduce congestion, more appropriately price parking based on demand and provide enhanced services to citizens
  • Integrate real-time information from on-street and off-street parking to enable collaborative decision making for rapid response to events, changes in parking availability and demand.

Streetline’s patented smart parking platform detects the presence of a car through a network of ultra-low power wireless sensors located in individual parking spaces.

This information is then made available in real time both to the city, as well as to consumers via Parker, a free smartphone app via the iTunes Store or Android marketplace.

Using this real-time parking data combined with advanced parking analytics built on IBM Cognos, cities can then tap into this information to understand important factors including hourly occupancy, occupancy by block, parking duration, and trends by area.

Streetline was named the winner of the IBM SmartCamp World Finals and IBM Global Entrepreneur of the Year in November 2010.

About IBM and Smarter Transportation

IBM works with cities, governments and others around the world to make their transportation systems smarter. Smarter transportation systems can help traffic and public transit systems flow more smoothly, anticipate and improve congestion in advance, reduce emissions and increase the capacity of infrastructure.

To join in the conversation on Smarter Transportation, join us on LinkedIn and Twitter.

Visit here for more on IBM and Smarter Transportation.

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