Grant awarded to Gainesville and UF to help design safer intersections

GAINESVILLE, Fla., (WCJB) -- The city of Gainesville and the University of Florida are working towards becoming a "smart city."

Grants from NSF typically go towards scientific research, but this time it's being given out for a different reason.

Road safety is always a concern particularly at intersections where drivers, pedestrians, and cyclists could end up injured or killed.

Nearly a month ago, a panhandler was killed at the NW 43rd Street and NW 23rd Avenue intersection in Gainesville.

"The National Science Foundation recently awarded the city of Gainesville and the University of Florida with a two million dollar grant to help improve intersection safety," stated Chip Skinner, spokesperson for Gainesville.

UF computer science professor Dr. Sanjay Ranka will lead the initiative by developing technology that will be placed at intersections across Gainesville.

"The technology is basically using machine learning and using artificial intelligence and to look at the data that is coming in in real time and be able to understand how people and vehicles are behaving at the intersection so that we can better design intersections," stated Dr. Sanjay Ranka, UF Computer Science professor.

Data at intersections will be analyzed to monitor the behavior of pedestrians, drivers, and cyclists on the road.

"We are now trying on Gale Lemerand and Archer Road, to look at some intersections near the university where we have a lot of pedestrians," stated Dr. Ranka.

A road safety initiative like this comes as no surprise for the city of Gainesville and UF because it's not the first time the two have partnered.

"The city has partnered with UF on a number of projects, some of those included parenting with Audi where their cars were communicating with our signals and we were gathering data," stated Skinner.

The project will last 4 years--but there is no word yet on when the technology will begin being added to intersections across Gainesville.