3 reasons autonomous vehicles need city data

How will driverless cars safely navigate the roads of all American cities, avoiding crashes and injuries, where sensors have never been and for which telematics data are not robust?

Answering this fundamental question is essential for widespread adoption of autonomous vehicles and also very valuable for that industry – including car manufacturers, car sharing companies, and shipping and delivery companies –to limit liability, fines, and high insurance costs.

A solution to the autonomous vehicle industry’s greatest challenges is sitting in its blindspot. The key is city administrative data, including crash reports and moving violation citations from police and signage and curb infrastructure data from transportation agencies.

City data will become a cornerstone of the risk management and deployment strategies of autonomous vehicles, and here’s why:


1. City data helps deploy autonomous vehicles more places, quickly and safely.

Having city data, where there are no sensors, makes it possible to anticipate risks, crashes, and congestion before any autonomous vehicles hit the road. City data are typically available and often open, which allows for safety simulations and widespread, simultaneous deployment of vehicles into new markets without expensive, time consuming, and fragmented sensor testing. 

2. City data enhances vehicle onboard safety features and saves lives.

Onboard sensor technologies in autonomous vehicles lack the human intuition to slow down in school zones or known, unsafe intersections. Programming vehicles with knowledge of vulnerable populations and crash predictions will help vehicles know where people are or are likely to be, without having to observe them. It will supplement sensors so that vehicles are not only relying on reactionary sensors to accurately see and quickly respond to obstacles or children running into the road.

It is possible to save tens of thousands of lives each year by introducing city data into autonomous vehicles. With city data, autonomous vehicles will likely be able to:

  • Stop without the presence of physical stop signs
  • Drive the speed limit without reading signage
  • Always legally park, away from fire hydrants
  • Sensitize sensors in school zones
  • Drive only on plowed roads
  • Reroute to clear the way for emergency vehicles
  • Drop passengers or packages at locations without blindspots

3. City data can prevent congestion and lower costs.

Instead of waiting for cars to report slow downs, vehicles will leverage real time emergency vehicle response data and event and construction permits to know where and when congestion will occur before cars begin to pileup. For shipment and delivery companies in particular, this has the potential to further optimize routes for on-time delivery and gasoline savings.


While city data are free, they are not always available or organized to be useful. Open Data Nation built Hopper, a data transmission architecture and machine learning logic for autonomous vehicles to leverage open data. To help us solve more challenges, like connecting city data to fleet management, insurance, and risk management data, participate in a multi-city pilot: www.opendatanation.com/vision-zero