Building on its national efforts to raise awareness about the dangers of texting while driving, AT&T has announced Connected Intersections, a new traffic safety initiative to spur technological solutions to improve traffic safety on New York City streets.

The initiative seeks to utilize smartphone technology and wireless networks to make pedestrians, cyclists, and motorists more aware of their surroundings and alert them to potential dangers. To kick-off the initiative, AT&T and NYC Media Lab released a paper drawing on research from around the country that examines smartphone distraction and impediments to traffic safety.

The paper, titled “Exploring How Mobile Technologies Impact Pedestrian Safety,” provides a springboard for a three-month tech challenge where developers will compete to create smartphone apps and wearable solutions that aim to augment the public’s connectedness to their immediate surroundings while reducing distraction. Developers will take advantage of smartphone sensors, phone-to-phone communications and natural user interfaces, among other technologies.

ChallengePost will produce the challenge and has assembled a panel of expert judges from across the transportation and technology sectors to judge the submissions and identify the winning solutions. Kim Wiley-Schwartz, assistant commissioner for Education and Outreach at New York City’s Department of Transportation, NYU Professor Mitchell Moss of the NYU Rudin Center for Transportation, General Assembly Co-Founder Matthew Brimer, Luke DuBois from New York University’s Polytechnic School of Engineering, Justin Hendrix from NYC Media Lab, and Marissa Shorenstein from AT&T will award cash prizes collectively totaling $50,000.

"Mobile technology has allowed people and communities to connect in extraordinary ways, and as an industry leader, our goal is to facilitate ways for mobile technology to help be an asset, not a hindrance to public safety," said Shorenstein, New York State President of AT&T. "The anti-texting while driving campaign championed by AT&T, It Can Wait, has raised awareness of the dangers of texting while driving. We want to build on its success by encouraging the development of apps and devices that use smartphones to improve traffic safety on New York City streets. We're eager to see what developers create over the next several months and hopeful this initiative will lead to mobile technology embraced by the public and sustained by developers."

"When NYC Media Lab started talking about this set of issues with AT&T in 2012, we hoped what was then a seed research project with NYU Polytechnic School of Engineering might lead to a broader effort to explore how new media and communications technologies can be employed to make the City a safer place,” said Justin Hendrix, executive director, NYC Media Lab. “This effort is the first of its kind and I look forward to the results."

The report cites recent statistics showing that New York City pedestrian fatalities in car crashes were four times greater than the national average. The city has made it a priority to reduce pedestrian deaths with plans to lower speed limits, improve traffic signals and signage, and create pedestrian greenways are already underway. AT&T seeks to use the collective power of the city's transportation, technology, and academic and advocacy communities to serve these efforts. 

“The NYU Polytechnic School of Engineering is excited to once again work with AT&T toward developing technology that will improve the lives of New Yorkers,” said R. Luke DuBois, co-director of the school’s Integrated Digital Media program. “We began developing a research brief more than a year ago on the issue of injuries and fatalities due to distracted mobile device use, and the city has outlined an impressive set of policy initiatives on the topic. We intend to do our part by exploring how technology can play a role in ensuring that mobile devices are used safely and responsibly.”

"New York is a city in motion, whether it is drivers in their cars or pedestrians on the sidewalks. Everyone must be aware of the risks involved when they move through the city streets,” said Moss, Henry Hart Rice professor of Urban Policy and Planning at NYU Wagner, and director of the NYU Rudin Center for Transportation. “Information technology can play a vital role in improving pedestrian safety in the neighborhoods of New York and provide a model for cities around the world.”

“We’re looking forward to seeing the solutions developed to address pedestrian safety,” said Matthew Brimer, co-founder, General Assembly. “Modern mobile technology will allow people to produce creative, effective ways to increase the awareness of those walking within the city and solve this important issue.”

"It's inspiring to see AT&T take a lead role in working with the global developer community for this software competition," said Brandon Kessler, CEO of the ChallengePost platform, which will showcase the competition and results. "The latest software development kits and APIs are powerful, and enable developers to catalyze a new generation of software and wearable solutions to reduce distraction and improve safety."

AT&T cemented its leadership role as a traffic safety advocate in 2010 when it developed and launched the “It Can Wait” campaign to spread awareness among drivers about the dangers of texting while driving. The nation’s other leading wireless carriers have since joined the campaign.

Winners of the Connected Intersections challenge will be announced in October. For more information or to register for the challenge, visit and follow the latest news on Twitter using the hashtag #ConnectedIntersection.