The department wants to know "how people drive, what are they looking at, what are they doing, how do they react to things."
The Department of Transportation is using the Internet of Things to learn about U.S. drivers' habits, Chief Technology Officer Maria Roat said during a recent conference.
Speaking Monday at the Executive Leadership Conference in Williamsburg, Virginia, Roat described the department's recent tech investments, including one multiyear effort to gather information about driving patterns using onboard sensors and video cameras. These tests have generated 4 petabytes of data, she said, collected from test-drivers who spent about 1 million hours in about 2,000 cars.
The department is currently analyzing that information to understand "how people drive, what are they looking at, what are they doing, how do they react to things,” she said.
Roat also updated the audience on DOT's attempts to build a national database containing citizens' addresses; the department is prototyping what that might look like, she said, and is working with the Census Bureau and geospatial agencies to create one.
“I don’t think people realize there is no national address database," Roat said, explaining that address data is owned and stored by cities.
Such a database would be useful for emergency response teams, she said. "If another Hurricane Sandy hits . . . some of the [addresses] might need to be geocoded because the houses might be gone," Roat said.
She added that 911 calls could be directed to dispatchers who aren't familiar with a caller's geography.
"How do you communicate that to the 911 operator?" she asked. "How do they know where you’re calling from . . . 'Lake Smith,' they might not know where that is?"