Inferring Heterogeneous Treatment Effects of Crashes on Highway Traffic: A Doubly Robust Causal Machine Learning Approach

1 Jan 2024  ·  Shuang Li, Ziyuan Pu, Zhiyong Cui, Seunghyeon Lee, Xiucheng Guo, Dong Ngoduy ·

Highway traffic crashes exert a considerable impact on both transportation systems and the economy. In this context, accurate and dependable emergency responses are crucial for effective traffic management. However, the influence of crashes on traffic status varies across diverse factors and may be biased due to selection bias. Therefore, there arises a necessity to accurately estimate the heterogeneous causal effects of crashes, thereby providing essential insights to facilitate individual-level emergency decision-making. This paper proposes a novel causal machine learning framework to estimate the causal effect of different types of crashes on highway speed. The Neyman-Rubin Causal Model (RCM) is employed to formulate this problem from a causal perspective. The Conditional Shapley Value Index (CSVI) is proposed based on causal graph theory to filter adverse variables, and the Structural Causal Model (SCM) is then adopted to define the statistical estimand for causal effects. The treatment effects are estimated by Doubly Robust Learning (DRL) methods, which combine doubly robust causal inference with classification and regression machine learning models. Experimental results from 4815 crashes on Highway Interstate 5 in Washington State reveal the heterogeneous treatment effects of crashes at varying distances and durations. The rear-end crashes cause more severe congestion and longer durations than other types of crashes, and the sideswipe crashes have the longest delayed impact. Additionally, the findings show that rear-end crashes affect traffic greater at night, while crash to objects has the most significant influence during peak hours. Statistical hypothesis tests, error metrics based on matched "counterfactual outcomes", and sensitive analyses are employed for assessment, and the results validate the accuracy and effectiveness of our method.

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