The Pedestrian Perspective in new projects

Two projects focusing on safety for pedestrians have recently commenced at VTI: Smart Urban Traffic Zones and Safety for Pedestrians. There are links to the ongoing EU project VIRTUAL – for which Research Director Astrid Linder is the coordinator.

Astrid welcomes the clear pedestrian perspective.

“For me, it is important to conduct research from the perspective of the pedestrian,” she comments.

At the same time, Astrid Linder stresses that there is not much to report from the two projects at this point.

“They’re just getting started. But the connection to VIRTUAL is conscious and the activities in the various projects are linked to each other”, she continues.

Safety for Pedestrians, which is VTI’s largest currently running project, was conceived from an ongoing bilateral collaboration with China concerning traffic safety. Different pedestrian scenarios – with people walking, running or in other ways moving around on foot – are created digitally. Using mathematical simulations, the researchers then try to find out how to improve protection of pedestrians in different traffic situations. (In VIRTUAL, the researchers work in a similar way.) The public authority Vinnova is a co-funder of the project, and they state that the project “addresses new challenges in the case of unprotected road users” and that it will “combine the expertise of Swedish and Chinese researchers to develop new development and evaluation tools.”

Smart urban traffic zones are about geofencing. How can smart traffic zones be developed where vehicles move safely based on the conditions of, among other things, vulnerable road users, while also taking lower emissions and noise levels into consideration?

Multiple perspectives have to be kept in mind at the same time. The goal that people should not be harmed or killed in traffic is one perspective. Creating a traffic situation that is sustainable from an environmental point of view is another. A third perspective is human health and air quality, where one objective is to reduce the number of dangerous particles in the air caused by traffic emissions.

“If one studies problems from several different perspectives, it might be possible to find solutions that one would never have seen if one only examined the problem from a single perspective,” remarks Jonas Jansson, Head of research at VTI.

At the moment, a technological shift is opening up for major changes. We are seeing more and more electric vehicles on the road. The use of vehicular automation is increasing. At the same time, there is an increased awareness in terms of health and environmental impacts.

“We can see that it is easier to achieve acceptance of reduced speeds if based on environmental reasons, and then increased road safety follows as an added bonus”.

There is a significant interest in geofencing. If it was decided to use the technology to its full capability, what consequences might we see? If it is no longer possible to drive fast illegally, then why buy a car with an engine whose capacity one could never really take advantage of?

“Geofencing could change the whole consumption behaviour, at least in the cities,” argues Jonas Jansson. People would probably buy smaller cars, if they still wanted to buy a private car.

Think for a moment, what if the norm changed so that walking and bicycling became the obvious choice for shorter distances?

“And walking and cycling would be the best option not only for health, the environment and financial reasons. It would also be the most effective way to transport oneself, for example in combination with public transport.

Text: Catarina Gisby/redakta
Translated by: Semantix AB

This is an article from the magazine VTI aktuellt no. 4–2019 (in Swedish).