RoboTaxis, Emergency Response, and the MDS Policy API

June 26, 2024

How can cities instantly and widely communicate street closures, crashes and emergency response events to autonomous vehicle companies, public transit operators, Uber, Lyft, taxis and the general public via mapping platforms like Google and Waze?  At the OMF’s Mobility Data Specification Working Group call on June 6, OMF members and attendees discussed the opportunity to use the OMF’s Mobility Data Specification (MDS) Policy API to communicate changes affecting the public right of way in real time for planned and unplanned events like fire and medial response.


For the past few years cities have been using the MDS Policy API to communicate digital policy for micromobility such as geofenced no-ride zones, speed limits and designated parking areas. Cities can now utilize the MDS Policy API to efficiently and consistently share important travel information like street closures and emergency response zones to mobility providers, autonomous vehicles, transit operators and even drivers in an accurate and timely manner. Historically, public agencies have had to communicate this important information to mobility providers via email or text message. But now, with advancements to MDS, along with private sector collaboration, agencies can share things like a geofence for an emergency area that would allow autonomous vehicles and other mobility operators to easily update their routes and avoid the area creating safer and more efficient streets.


While mapping systems like Google Maps and Waze have been able to share crash information from user submissions and roadway slowdowns via cell phone tracking for quite some time, this kind of real-time policy communication to mobility providers, autonomous vehicle companies and ultimately drivers is now a feature of MDS. The next step is to demonstrate the functionality through a collaborative project. We’re excited to share that OMF member city Seattle is piloting the use the MDS Policy API to:

  1. Ingest real-time data (911, construction, traffic incidents, etc.)
  2. Translate data into Mobility Data Specification (MDS) standard
  3. Create geofences (no-go, slow zones, etc.) via MDS Policy feed for transportation operators, including AVs
  4. Monitor feed use, engage with operators to understand impact (reduction in interventions by remote operators, successful re-routes by AV, etc.)
  5. Create implementation guide for other cities so this use of MDS Policy is replicable for cities across the US and world

Pilots like Seattle’s, which will both “road” test this MDS Policy API feature and share guidance and lessons with other cities, are leading the way in the digital transformation of infrastructure.

“The Seattle Department of Transportation is excited to be working on a demonstration of the Mobility Data Specification (MDS) to translate real-time information produced by cities, including 911 dispatch. The project will seek to provide real-time information to transportation operators such as autonomous vehicle fleets who can use the information to streamline their operations and avoid conflict zones that may impact routing. We are grateful for the Washington State policymakers that allocated the funding for this project, as well as our project partners including the Open Mobility Foundation who will be key stakeholders as we work towards an implementation guide for other cities.”


— Armand Shahbazian, Electric and Automated Mobility Policy Advisor, Seattle Department of Transportation


Want to learn more about advances in MDS and how you can get more involved in this work? You don’t want to miss the materials from our last MDS Working Group, where over 65 attendees joined to learn about MDS 2.0, the Policy API and Seattle’s pilot project.

The OMF’s MDS Working Group is open to the public, while OMF members can join the MDS Working Group Steering Committee and lead these important conversations and initiatives. Learn more about upcoming meetings and get info on MDS, potential features, and all other working group activity on our GitHub

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