Smartphone app collects detailed data about travel behavior

Man on smartphoneTransportation agencies need travel behavior data to plan changes to their networks, systems, and policies. A new smartphone application developed by a U of M research team makes it easier and less costly to collect this important information and provides richer, more accurate data than traditional methods.

The Daynamica open-source app provides an efficient approach for collecting and processing data for driving, walking, biking or taking transit. It combines smartphone GPS sensing with statistical and machine-learning techniques to detect, identify, and summarize daily activity and travel episodes. The app then allows users to view and annotate information at their convenience.

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Posted in Planning, Technology, Traffic data, Travel Behavior

Unmanned aircraft systems could help monitor traffic, infrastructure

UASRecently, unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) have been making headlines for their wide-ranging applications—from aerial photography to package delivery for major retailers—and for their accompanying regulatory, safety, and privacy concerns.

In an October 15 Roadway Safety Institute seminar, Associate Professor Demoz Gebre-Egziabher of the U of M’s aerospace engineering and mechanics department reviewed some UAS-related opportunities and challenges. He also discussed some of the UAS research being conducted at the U of M’s Uninhabited Aerial Vehicle (UAV) Laboratories.

Posted in Aviation, Bridges and structures, Events, Technology, Transportation research

Spreadsheet tool helps determine when it’s safe to use flashing yellow arrows

33705A spreadsheet tool designed to help MnDOT and other agencies determine where and when it’s safe to use flashing yellow arrows is now available on the Minnesota Local Road Research Board website.

Flashing yellow arrows warn drivers that they can make a left turn only after yielding to any oncoming traffic or pedestrians. These signals can help prevent crashes, move more traffic through an intersection, and provide additional traffic management flexibility. The new spreadsheet tool helps traffic engineers determine when the crash risk at an intersection is sufficiently low to allow flashing yellow arrows to be implemented safely.

Posted in Safety, Traffic data, Traffic operations, Transportation research, Urban transportation

Researchers receive $1.2 million grant to explore congestion management in Smart Cities

trafficUniversity of Minnesota researchers have received a $1.2 million Cyber-Physical Systems (CPS) grant from the National Science Foundation to explore congestion management as part of “Smart Cities.”

The project, titled “Dynamic Methods of Traffic Control that Impact Quality of Life in Smart Cities,” is led by CTS Scholar Nikolaos Papanikolopoulos, a professor of computer science and engineering at the U of M. The team also includes CTS Scholars John Hourdos, Vassilios Morellas, and Ted Morris.

Posted in Safety, Technology, Traffic operations, Transportation research, Urban transportation

How do drivers adapt to vehicle safety systems and technologies?

wheelTechnology is revolutionizing the way we drive. Many technological innovations designed to increase driver safety are already available, and many more are being developed. Some of these safety systems are designed to help drivers make appropriate decisions, while others will initiate decisions themselves if the driver is not capable during safety-critical moments. However, these systems can come with unanticipated effects—causing the driver’s behavior to change or adapt in unforeseen ways that may compromise the potential benefits of a system.

Researcher Linda Ng Boyle aims to make sure the adaptive effects of vehicle safety systems are fully understood. As professor and chair of the Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering at the University of Washington, she has conducted numerous studies that model the effects of drivers’ adaptive behavior on system safety. In October, Boyle visited the U of M to deliver a presentation on her work as part of the Roadway Safety Institute’s Seminar Series.

Posted in Events, Safety, Technology

If we think using our phones while driving is a bad idea, why do we still do it?

Texting while driving We’ve all been in bad relationships. And we’re probably in one right now—with our cell phone. We think we have more power than we do, but we’re actually being taken advantage of in “unseen ways,” according to New York Times reporter and best-selling author Matt Richtel.

Richtel, a Pulitzer Prize winner and author of A Deadly Wandering, shared thoughts about that relationship—and what’s happening in our heads when we use our phones behind the wheel—at the 2015 Toward Zero Deaths Conference in St. Cloud last week.

According to results of a 2012 survey from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, 84.4 percent of people say texting and driving is “completely unacceptable,” yet 36 percent admit to having read a text or e-mail message in the last 90 days while driving, and 27 percent have sent one. The alarming punch line, Richtel said, is that currently those numbers are up.

“How can there be such a disconnect between professed attitudes and behaviors?” Richtel asked. He posited that it’s sort of like smoking; we know it’s bad for us but can’t help doing it. Although we may not actually be addicted to our phones, what’s happening inside the brain of a cell phone user makes this disconnect easier to understand.

Posted in Events, Safety, Technology

CTS hosts visit from high school students with TransportationYOU

TransYOU1Last week, CTS hosted seven girls from Blaine High School on a U of M visit designed to spark their interest in transportation. The visit was organized by TransportationYOU, a mentoring program of the Women’s Transportation Seminar (WTS) that encourages girls ages 13-18 to pursue transportation careers.

During their visit, the students explored campus through a scavenger hunt, rode the Green Line, got behind the wheel of the HumanFIRST Laboratory’s driving simulator, saw a demonstration of the Nice Ride bike-sharing system, and toured the award-winning Civil Engineering building. All activities were led by transportation faculty, researchers, and practicing professionals.

Posted in Education, Workforce development
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