Road Safety and Vulnerable Road Users
Internet of People Insights
Bruno Fernandes, José Neves and Cesar Analide
Department of Informatics, University of Minho, Braga, Portugal
Keywords: Vulnerable Road Users, Road Safety, Internet of People, Internet of Things, Smart Cities.
Abstract: Researchers have been setting their focus on improving the quality of life of the human being, especially at
large urban centres. However, problems like crowding, traffic accidents or crime are still to be unscrambled.
Indeed, one may use the amazing technological evolution the world is experiencing to mitigate such
problems, focusing the Internet of Things in the creation of truly Smart Cities. Hence, this work intends to
study and analyse relevant areas of intervention in Smart Cities, with special focus on the efforts being
made to enhance the safety of those more vulnerable at the road, known as Vulnerable Road Users.
Undeniably, one’s review shows that insufficient focus is being given to the use of the Internet of People to
address this challenge, renouncing the possibility of access information such as position, pace, and physical
and emotional conditions of the user. It becomes now imperative to shift the paradigm and proceed towards
the Internet of People.
Contrary to what one may think, Smart Cities stand
for a theme that has been in the human mind for
decades. Currently, the human kind takes advantage
of the tremendous technological evolution the world
is experiencing to improve either their quality of life
or habitat in order to make the world a safer place.
Coupling this with the typical challenges of large
urban centres, one comes to the Smart Cities soul.
There is no definitive characterization for this
approach, but a broad range of very similar ones.
One example is the definition of Harrison (Harrison
et al., 2010) who state that “Smarter City continues
the long-standing practice of improving the
operational efficiency and quality of life of a city by
building on advances in IT”. It is not the intention of
this work to clarify which is the most accurate
designation. Instead, the focus is on a literature
review in order to analyse and understand some of
the major areas of intervention in Smart Cities,
allowing us to lead our attention towards Road
Safety and, specifically, to the Vulnerable Road
Users (VRU) problem. On how are researchers
currently addressing this major issue and on how we
may combine things, such as vehicles or bicycles,
and people in a global and pervasive network, with
focus on reducing the vulnerability of such road
users. The prevention of injuries in VRU must be
seen as crucial as it will allow people to be safer and
roads would no longer be so dangerous.
Nevertheless, the authors of this work have their
own opinion when the subject is the classification of
a Smart City, i.e., assumed as the ability to reason
upon the knowledge acquired through data gathered
by sensorization, with focus on improving the quality
of life at urban centres, considering sustainability
and safety principles. Here, sustainability it is to be
understood in terms of social, economic and
environmental matters.
Internet of Things (IoT) also lacks a unique
meaning. This term was first used in 1999, by Kevin
Ashton (Madakam et al., 2015), where he claimed
that in the twenty-first century “because of the
Internet of Things, computers can sense things for
themselves” (Gabbai, 2015). With this in mind, an
acceptable delineation may be the one of Madakam
(Madakam et al., 2015), where IoT is presented as
An open and comprehensive network of intelligent
objects that have the capacity to auto-organize,
share information, data and resources, reacting and
acting in face of situations and changes in the
It is also necessary to clarify the bibliographic
search strategy followed to find relevant documents.
In this study, several databases were used, such as
Fernandes, B., Neves, J. and Analide, C.
Road Safety and Vulnerable Road Users - Internet of People Insights.
DOI: 10.5220/0006359303110316
In Proceedings of the 6th International Conference on Smart Cities and Green ICT Systems (SMARTGREENS 2017), pages 311-316
ISBN: 978-989-758-241-7
Copyright © 2017 by SCITEPRESS Science and Technology Publications, Lda. All rights reserved
IEEE Xplore, Scopus and Web of Science. Some of
the searched keywords were “Smart Cities” AND
“Internet of Things”; “Internet of People”;
“Vulnerable Road Users”. The employed keywords
were used to search essay titles, focusing mainly on
recent assets. Finally, a more attentive search on the
subjects under analysis was carried out.
This paper is organized into four sections,
namely: a former one that introduces the problem,
motivation, and the bibliographic search strategy.
The next one presents an analysis on the main areas
of intervention in Smart Cities. The third focuses on
Road Safety, particularly the VRU problematic.
Solutions to enhance VRU’s safety are also
mentioned. Finally, in the last section, conclusions
are presented and future work is outlined.
2.1 An Introduction
One should bear in mind that Smart Cities is a theme
that encompasses different fields from different
areas such as computer science, civil engineering,
mechanics and electronics, among others. Therefore,
the way to address Smart Cities will focus on a
multitude of aspects and will demand huge efforts.
On the other hand, once the IoT links objects to the
Internet, enabling data and insights never available
before, it was a question of common sense to take it
into consideration in the present work. Objects such
as clothes, food packing or shoes will be equipped
with some level of Internet-addressable features,
offering context awareness and communication
facilities. Indeed, it is expected that by 2020 seven
trillion devices will be used by seven billion people
(Skouby & Lynggaard, 2014). On the other hand,
not only home automation components are driven us
toward “Smart Homes”, but other personal IoT
devices like wearable fitness and health monitoring
ones are transforming the way healthcare services
are delivered to the citizens (Rose et al., 2015).
Over time some attempts have been made to set
new paradigms such as the Internet of People (IoP)
(Boavida et al., 2016; Miranda et al., 2015) or the
Internet of Everything (IoE) (Kyriazopoulou, 2015).
As per the authors, IoE has the major goal of extend
IoT to exactly “everything”. As for IoP, it may be
seen as an attempt to bring IoT closer to people
(Miranda et al., 2015). IoP is a paradigm where the
literature is practically non-existent. It is only now
that it is beginning to receive well-deserved attention
and its focus is on enabling people to be an active
part of a global system, a global network of things
and people, enabling the creation of people centric
IoT (Boavida et al., 2016). Our approach to the VRU
problem will focus on the IoP and consists in getting
people to this global network of physical things
known as the IoT.
An essential point when discussing these topics
refers to the problem of knowledge representation
and reasoning, and how to deal with the respective
data. It is important to guarantee that information
systems are able to extract knowledge from such
data in order to reason. Recent studies have shown
the huge potential of Logic Programming based
approaches to reason upon unknown, defective or
even self-contradictory data or knowledge, which is
truly mandatory within the Smart Cities context
(Fernandes et al., 2015; Neves et al., 2015).
2.2 Areas of Intervention
Internet of Things is the new trend in the
development of Smart Cities and recommendations
about its use have been published in the literature.
Its association with sensor networks and cloud
computing strengthens its acceptance (Figure 1)
(Kyriazopoulou, 2015), as it is exposed beneath:
Smart Homes (Domotics) - inside smart homes all
devices and appliances are aware of the existence of
others, are capable of communicate among them and
have an independent existence. Once this area of
intervention deals with the technological enrichment
of the living environments, smart homes may be able
to react to changes in the environment and to take
into account the preferences of the households and
their individualities (Skouby & Lynggaard, 2014);
Smart Healthcare - smart healthcare is one of the
major topics of concern in Smart Cities. Smart
systems in this area comprise clinical care, remote
monitoring, early intervention and diagnosis,
prevention and emergency responses, where smart
devices may be used by people to control diseases
(Mehrotra & Dhande, 2015). Furthermore, it
comprises interoperability along different health
services and institutions;
Smart Energy - echo-friendly Smart Cities are
required to use and produce green energy, reduce
consumption, promote recycling, and decrease
carbon footprint. Such goals may be achieved either
by promoting user-awareness or practices that may
be inherited from disciplines as Ambient Assisted
Living or Ambient Intelligence (Silva et al., 2013).
SMARTGREENS 2017 - 6th International Conference on Smart Cities and Green ICT Systems
Indeed, intelligent automated living assistance
systems represent a promising approach for the
extension of a self-governing and self-conducted life
of physically or mentally challenged or elderly
people thereby, enhancing their quality of life and
reducing the need for manual social/medical care
(Gomes et al., 2010; Silva & Analide, 2016);
Sustainability - it is a subject of concern for the
assurance of steadiness, viability and system’s use.
A common definition to sustainability is on subject
of equilibrium on the social, economic, and
environmental issues. Assessing sustainability, and
sharing those results with the community of citizens,
is significant in the creation of user awareness (Silva
et al., 2013);
Public Safety - a controversial topic rests in the use
of IoT devices on the benefit of law enforcement and
public safety (Rose et al., 2015). Public safety
agencies could gather and analyse data for weather,
traffic, security breaches, hazardous materials or
disasters and provide actionable information to the
citizens (Harmon et al., 2015). However, it should
be taken into account that this topic may raise legal,
security, privacy or ethical questions;
Citizen Sensor - the number of wearable devices is
increasing exponentially, i.e., outfits used on our
daily routine and that bring everyone “online”. In
fact, tools such as smart watches, clothing or
wristbands represent printed electronics and sensing
capabilities, making it a formidable potential that
enables the citizen sensor and then the IoP. The
citizen as a sensor would assist the gathering of a
huge amount of data (Cano et al., 2015; Miranda et
al., 2015), allowing people to be an active, reactive
and proactive element in the IoP;
e-Government and e-Education - e-Government
business is based on statutes and laws, providing
citizens and firms access to government data and
services. It rests on information access, public
accessibility, quality of service and social awareness
(Scholl et al., 2009). e-Education focus on
improving learning outcomes by allowing full access
to education, using smart applications and analytics
to support teaching (Harmon et al., 2015);
Water, Waste and Disaster Management - a
Smart City should be capable of manage its own
resources and so it is of the highest importance to
reduce the waste of water and, at the same time,
improve its quality (Mehrotra & Dhande, 2015).
Waste management is still a primary issue in many
modern cities, i.e., first-hand solutions may result in
significant savings, and economical and ecological
advantages (Zanella et al., 2014);
Figure 1: Relevant areas of intervention in Smart Cities,
such as Smart Homes, Healthcare, Sustainability, Public
Safety, Water Management and Vulnerable Road Users.
Vulnerable Road Users - the importance of this
area of intervention is clear when the objective is to
help saving lives by preventing accidents. For
example, it is extremely dangerous to cross roads in
cities, even in the crosswalk. In a Smart City, having
people dying and getting injured at the road does not
make sense. Therefore it receives a greater
importance in the next section, where a thorough
revision of the current state of the art is performed.
Road safety has become a major concern not only
for car manufacturers, but also for governments.
Indeed, it is a very comprehensive topic, ranging
from measuring traffic congestion to increasing the
safety of motorcyclists or pedestrians. In Smart
Cities, communication among people, vehicles and
the city in itself will be a constant (Barba et al.,
2012). Undeniably, focusing on IoT, where
Vehicular Ad Hoc Networks (i.e., VANETs) are
created by applying the principles of Mobile Ad Hoc
Networks (i.e., MANETs), one may improve not
only road safety but also drivers quality of life.
VANET is a technology which uses cars as nodes of
a mobile, highly dynamic, network (Khekare &
Sakhare, 2013), allowing vehicles to easily
communicate among them and with fixed
infrastructures. Barba (Barba et al., 2012) propose a
Smart City framework for VANETs that includes
intelligent traffic lights established at crossroads,
therefore transmitting warning messages and traffic
statistics. However, it was made a set of assumptions
that are hardly true, such as that all vehicles have
devices like global positioning systems and driver
Road Safety and Vulnerable Road Users - Internet of People Insights
wizards, plus full map information including the
position of the intelligent traffic lights. However,
this work may have value or significance with
regard to message propagation, i.e., there is authors
that have been using VANETs and Intelligent
Transportation Systems to achieve objectives such
as improving road flow performance; create
comfortable driving; distribute, in real time, up-to-
date road information; and, last but not least, to
improve road safety. With focus on vehicular
communications, several authors have studied
possible forms of communications between vehicles,
pedestrians and infrastructures (i.e., V2X). Vehicle-
to-Vehicle (i.e., V2V) communications are a form of
bi-directional communication between vehicles. The
exchanged information may be used to calculate
traffic conditions, to avoid vehicle collisions or to
propagate rescue messages (Anaya et al., 2015).
Vehicle-to-Infrastructure (i.e., V2I) communications
are a form of interaction between a vehicle and an
infrastructure, usually built on roads or streets. V2I
may be used, for example, by a vehicle to identify its
position or to collect information, especially on
traffic and road conditions (Anaya et al., 2014;
Milanes et al., 2012). Other forms of vehicular
communication are emerging, mainly directed
towards pedestrians. These forms may be defined as
P2V (Pedestrian-to-Vehicle) and are shifting the
focus of vehicles to pedestrians (Cho, 2014; Liu et
al., 2010). This form of communication would allow
the exchange of messages between people and
vehicles in both directions, allowing the
enhancement of VRU protection.
At the road, there are people more vulnerable
than others to injuries and accidents. Those are
known as Vulnerable Road Users. Such users are
defined as “non-motorized road users, such as
pedestrians and cyclists as well as motorcyclists
(European Parliament, 2010). Their vulnerability
may arise from several directions, namely: lack of
external protection; age; physical and mobility
impairments; or visual and/or hearing disabilities. It
should also be emphasized that road traffic injuries
are the world eighth leading cause of death
(Guayante et al., 2014). Some different approaches
have been studied on how to minimize the
vulnerability of the VRU. Most of these studies are
theoretical. Cho (Cho, 2014) proposes a P2V
communication system focusing on conflict zones,
such as the single unsigned road and intersection
areas. Its main focus is children and the elderly.
Although they claim to use a type of P2V
communication, real communication happens
between vehicles and infrastructures, and then
between infrastructures and the pedestrians. There is
no direct communication between people and things.
More examples of theoretical studies may be found
in the work of Carels (Carels et al., 2011), who
propose the combination of new wireless
technologies with existing collision prevention
systems, showing and explaining several use cases
such as “Right Turning Vehicle” or “Street
Crossing”. It also addresses important trade-offs for
information exchange between vehicles and VRUs,
namely: low latency, low energy consumption, high
position accuracy and high reliability of warnings.
Besides these trade-offs, there is one that should not
be forgotten, i.e., cost. A hypothetical solution for
the VRU problem will only be implemented in the
real world if it is economically viable. There are,
however, interesting examples of studies that have,
in some way, implemented or simulated their work.
A thought-provoking work is done by Anaya (Anaya
et al., 2015). They feature a new advanced driver
assistance system to prevent accidents involving
motorcyclists and cyclists. They have developed a
VRU detection system where vehicles and
motorcyclists have their own communication unit.
On the other hand, cyclists, whose bikes have
reduced communication capabilities, are equipped
with an on-board sensor known as iBeacon. An
iBeacon is a new bluetooth-based sensor with low-
cost, low-power transmitters. It notifies bluetooth
devices of one’s presence. However, they focused on
keeping the non-vulnerable driver informed about
the presence and location of the VRU by having a
unidirectional information flow (Anaya et al., 2015).
The same authors have studied the accuracy and
performance of several technologies such as GPS
and Wi-Fi. Such studies are important since the
VRU (and the vehicle) needs to be informed of a
possible collision before it happens, leaving no time
for latency or bad connections between systems
(Anaya et al., 2014). Other studies focused on the
benefits that smartphones could bring to the VRU.
One example is the study performed by Liebner
(Liebner et al., 2013). These authors evaluated
accuracy and transmission latencies for smartphone-
to-car communications, being able to show that the
performance of the smartphone’s GPS is heavily
affected if the smartphone is, for example, in the
breast pocket of a jacket. Another different approach
to this problematic may be seen in the work of
Guayante (Guayante et al., 2014). Their approach is
to make use of sensors to detect users and their
movement, and then send alerts to vehicles nearby.
This model is based on the VANETs’ approach and
it is not considering the VRU as an active and
SMARTGREENS 2017 - 6th International Conference on Smart Cities and Green ICT Systems
proactive part of the system. Moreover, it showed
important drawbacks such as the inability to detect a
VRU that was moving at high-speed like running.
As discussed earlier, several approaches have
been studied to improve VRU security and while
some focus on drivers others center on the city’s
vehicles or infrastructure. Solutions that make use of
cameras and sensor fusion techniques to discover
VRU at the road are defining the VRU as a passive
actor. In fact, this may be seen as the main
conclusion of our literature review; clearly, the main
emphasis is on vehicles and drivers, foregoing
relevant information about the VRU. This is a gap
that we intend to solve with the IoP. Some studies
were already undertaken to look at P2V
communication, relying in servers. There is no direct
communication between VRU and things. In
addition, such studies are mainly limited to
smartphones and are considering people as “flat
things”. Our approach to the VRU problem is to get
people to this global network of physical things
known as the IoT, always taking into account the
characteristics of the VRU, together with his
physical and emotional state, allowing, for example,
the creation of awareness for an unpredictable
behaviour. Therefore, within the IoP, the citizen
sensor is of the utmost importance as it focuses on
empowering citizens with sensing capabilities. Thus,
we would be in the presence of a global network
composed of physical devices and people, being able
to understand each other; be aware of the presence
of others; and be able to act and react upon changes
in the environment. As soon as the human being
becomes an active part of the IoP, some concerns
will always be raised regarding one’s privacy and
the management of one’s data. Such concerns are
already being addressed in the literature as, for
example, in the work of Wu (Wu et al., 2010), who
focused on ensuring reliability, security and privacy
in V2V Communications.
Smart Cities and IoT should be seen as relevant
topics for the present, not as forward-looking topics.
This work analysed relevant areas of intervention in
Smart Cities, showing that further studies are needed
to achieve effectiveness and efficiency in many of
them. One of the many points that still require
extensive studies is focused on Road Safety, namely
on how to improve VRU’s security. Injury
prevention in such users should be seen as crucial as
it would save lives. It has become clear that,
currently, the VRU itself is being insufficiently
focused and, therefore, the use of IoP to deal with
this problem. The VRU is part of the problem and
obviously should be part of the solution. We must
seize the citizen as a sensor and as an active and
participatory element and, therefore, enable the IoP.
Communication should go to, and come from, the
VRU. In the context of the VRU problematic, the
IoP would allow a system to have direct information
about the VRU and share such information with
cars, road side infrastructures and other people. Just
by focusing on VRUs, it would be possible to
exchange information such as one’s position, pace,
direction, physical condition, age and disability,
among others. We will not forget important
questions when handling VRU-relevant information
such as ensuring reliability, security and privacy of
information through the use of reputation models or
automated auditing.
Once we focus on the IoP, new possibilities to
address this problem will emerge and everyone
would benefit if they could be deeply understood
and then finally implemented. Having completed
this literature review we are now focused on
designing and conceiving an architecture, a
framework, that will lead us to the implementation
of an IoP solution for the VRU problem. Therefore,
the nodes of this global and open network will be
pedestrians, cyclists and drivers along with “things”,
all in constant communication to enhance VRU’s
security. Last but not least, the VRU will be led
towards the IoP, with the creation and adoption of
software and devices that will help ensure his safety.
This work has been supported by COMPETE:
POCI-01-0145-FEDER-007043 and FCT –
Fundação para a Ciência e Tecnologia within the
Project Scope: UID/CEC/00319/2013.
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