How The Traffic Agent became a reality

All school children deserve a safe route to school. With The Traffic Agent the pupils can uncover safe and unsafe factors on their trip to and from school. Here are three key people behind the tool collected at the Reasearchers Day last year. From left Vibeke F. Rørholt from Agency of Urban Environment, Israr Khan from Capgemini in the centre and Torkel Bjørnskau from Norwegian Centre for Transport Research.

Published: Friday, September 4, 2015 12:02 PM


How The Traffic Agent became a reality

In 2013 the Agency for Urban Environment got an assignment from the City Council Department to make a comprehensive assessment of Oslo’s school routes.

The background for the assignment was a wish to create safer school routes for every young, vulnerable pedestrians on their way to and from school. 

Vibeke Rørholt, with 15 years of experience from the field of traffic safety from her work in ‘Safe Traffic’, were brought in to the Agency for Urban Environment to lead the project. She got the idea to develop a digital tool in April 2013 after having worked on creating an overview of the number of primary schools in Oslo, geographical location of the schools and the number of pupils.

User participation
- We wanted to create a solution that gives the schoolchildren an opportunity to report unsafe environments right when they experience them. We had simultaneously a need to know as much as possible about the children’s traffic patterns to and from school. It was obvious that this couldn’t be done on paper. The plan was rather to map their traffic patterns and their reports through tracking technology, which is available via the phone’s GPS-function. We also wanted that all the data that got collected was saved in a database that could protect the interests of privacy, says the project leader. 

Interdepartmental cooperation
This was the prelude and the starting point for The Traffic Agent, but the road to a finished product and the launch has been long and multifaceted.

- During the process to a finished project description, have we in the Agency for Urban Environment collaborated closely with the Institute of Transport Economics and the Education Authority, Rørholt continues. The Institute of Transport Economics has expertise in handling and processing traffic data, and their expertise will get to good use when the children reports about their school routes eventually shall be analyzed. The Education Authority’s responsibility include the primary schools in Oslo and they have given a green light so that the pupils in primary schools can become tomorrow’s traffic agents.

Extensive preparations
The project has had a user-centered approach and several tests has been done. 

- The tests showed us that the reading skills was not completely developed in the younger children. The solution became to have a Norwegian voice-guide consistently through the app. In addition have we had focus on protecting the interests of privacy, says Torkel Bjørnskau, researcher at the Institute of Transport Economics.

In March 2013 the project got incorporated as a subproject in the Institute of Transport Economics’s research project «Unregistered Transport – Mobility, Safety and new Technologies» which is financed by Norwegian Research Council's program for transport security.

In November 2013 the preliminary concept got presented in a workshop with parents, teachers, principals, politicians, the department of geodata in the Agency for Urban Environment and the Norwegian Public Roads Administration. Capgemini Norway, provider of technology services, got hired to program and develop a pilot app and a back-end system.

In April 2014 the mapping tool, The Traffic Agent, got tested by to primary schools in Oslo, with good results. Following the successful test the Agency for Urban Environment, the Institute of Transport Economics and the Education Authority all signed a preliminary agreement about continuing research and development of the project.

Testing in Oslo Schools
In October the same year the Agency for Urban Environment, the Institute of Transport Economics and the Education Authority all signed a contract on scientific research and development to conduct a comprehensive testing of the mapping tool in a large number of schools in Oslo. In February this year the app The Traffic Agent got launched on every platform, and in the spring 2015 a new website for the app got developed by Capgemini Norway.

An analysis of the traffic safety on the school routes in Oslo, based on the data from the The Traffic Agent app will be done in December 2015.

Vibeke Rørholt is pleased with the collaboration between the Agency for Urban Environment, the Institute of Transport Economics and the Education Authority and Capgemini Norway, as well as the end product.
- The Traffic Agent has become a modern tool that invites to interaction with schoolchildren. We look forward to analyzing the schoolchildren’s reports.

Torkel Bjørnskau from the Institute of Transport Economics agrees.

- I am confident that the tool may eventually be a boost for road safety. It will be interesting to see what the users of Traffic Agent have registered and put that in a system, the researcher says.