The physics concept of energy fields can be applied to model road user movements.
Road user’s safety “buffer” is influenced by the context and heterogeneities of the road user-vehicle combination.
Overlapping safety fields result in a psychological, repulsive risk force.
The risk force efficiently estimates crash frequency by severity levels.
The risk force accounts for the entire chain of traffic events, from usual interactions to crashes.
The rapid technological advancements in video analytics and the availability of big data have made traffic conflict techniques a viable tool for road safety assessments. They can potentially overcome many major limitations of conventional road safety practices that use crash-data analyses. However, the current traffic conflict techniques flag serious concerns regarding the context-dependence of the relationship between traffic conflicts and crashes, the lack of consideration of road user and vehicle heterogeneities in their formulation, and the exclusion of crash severity estimation from the analysis process. To overcome these limitations, this study proposes a novel application of the safety field theory to estimate crash risk and severity by modeling the safety-aware interactions of various road users in a road traffic environment. The safety field theory borrows from the Physics concept of electromagnetic fields to mathematically define the safety “buffers” that road users typically maintain around them while moving in traffic. Additionally, the model formulation explicitly accounts for exceptional circumstances (crashes and extreme conflicts) and integrates severity in the risk estimation framework to provide a holistic safety assessment framework. The proposed safety field theory application was tested by analyzing a total of 196 h of traffic movement videos collected from three signalized intersections in Brisbane, Australia and extracting the required road user trajectory information through artificial intelligence-based video analytics. Extreme value modeling of the tail distribution of the risk force generated by the interacting road user safety fields showed that it could predict the crash frequency and outcome severity more accurately than the prevalent traffic conflict indicators. Thus, the proposed approach provides a single, unified, and efficient method of accurately estimating crash risk and injury severities that can be adapted for various application contexts. The study results significantly improve the effectiveness of automated safety analysis for transport facilities and could elevate the safety prediction algorithms of real-time applications like adaptive signal control systems and Connected and Automated Vehicles.
Arun, A., Haque, M., Washington, S., Mannering, F., 2023. A Physics-informed road user safety field theory for traffic safety assessments applying artificial intelligence-based video analytics. Analytic Methods in Accident Research 37, 100252.