The initial project would consist of analyzing six different roads in Utah based on their LiDAR data. Roads with varying characteristics; two roads of each rural, suburban, and mountainous, were chosen to see the technology at work in a variety of conditions.
Miles explains about the pilot project: “We decided that the parameter we would analyze in our initial phase would be stopping sight distance. We had long been concerned that insufficient visibility was a contributing factor in many crashes, but had limited means of quantifying that claim. What we found out was that we can indeed use this technology to identify and then address areas of concern.”
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This pilot project showed promising results, and was able to provide some very useful insights. Somewhat surprisingly, although many sight distance deficiencies were identified, most were not resultant from the roadway base geometry alone. In many cases, there was some man-made or natural obstruction to the driver’s view. “All of a sudden now this becomes an area where we can start to focus our engineering efforts and our maintenance activities. If trees are blocking the sight distance, or rock outcroppings, anything like that, it allows us to be able to go in there and very quickly now, identify where we might have problems” remarks Carlos Braceras, Executive Director of UDOT.The results showed many examples of previously unidentified “low-hanging fruit”, real safety hazards that could be mitigated simply, for instance by cutting off a branch of a tree.
UDOT is now able to use these insights in combination with the sources of data that they already have access to in order to come up with cost-effective and meaningful solutions to the many hazards that may cause crashes.