Led by the University of NSW and funded by the Australian Research Council, researchers will undertake a 'naturalistic' driving study when 400 cars are equipped with state-of-the-art technology to capture driver behaviour.
Expected to start late next year or early in 2014 and run for six months, the three-year study is claimed to mark a major shift in the way road safety data is collected.
According to UNSW project leader Michael Regan, "400 cars will be equipped with video cameras, still cameras, accelerometers, GPS, forward-looking radar and a whole range of other sensors that will allow us to observe individual driver behaviour".
He said the study would also look at the behaviour of "other road users that drivers interact with, for example, pedestrians, motorcyclists or other drivers".
Studying 400 drivers of all ages
The project, which recently received $570,000 from the Australian Research Council under a Linkage Infrastructure, Equipment and Facilities grant, will involve 200 drivers in NSW and 200 in Victoria aged 17 to 70.
The five industry partners supporting the LIEF grant are the Transport Accident Commission in Victoria, VicRoads, the Motor Accident Commission in South Australia, Transport for NSW, and the Office of Road Safety in Western Australia.
The $1.3 million initial funding will be used to equip the cars with sensors and computer equipment that will allow the researchers to download the data to a central database at UNSW in Sydney. The data will be transferred to the US's Virginia Tech University, a leader in naturalistic driving studies, which will keep a duplicate copy of the data.
A pilot study, which will be funded by Transport for NSW, will start in February and run for three to six months.
To study what people do to avoid crashed
Professor Regan, who is based at UNSW's Transport and Road Safety Research, said road safety research usually involved analysing crashes, but according to Professor Regan "We know very little about what happens out there in the real world and what causes people to crash".
"We also don't know anything about the near misses that happen every day and, most importantly, as a result we don't know what people do right to avoid crashes."
Professor Regan said the project would see data fused together to get a complete picture of how people drive.
Targeted road safety issues would include how people behaved at intersections, speed choice, interactions with vulnerable road users (motorcyclists, pedestrians, cyclists) as well as fatigue, he said. "After we run the study we are going to have this massive database that can be interrogated for many years to come".
Link: Sensors to help drive new road safety bid