Ruling the road: U of M researchers working to improve transportation

trafficImagine a world without traffic jams, car crashes, or highway pileups. A future where smartphones are no longer a distraction from safe driving, but rather a safety tool. A future where it’s easier for everyone to get where they need to be, whether they’re driving, busing, biking, or hoofing it.

This future may happen sooner than later, thanks to advancements from researchers in the U’s College of Science and Engineering (CSE). These researchers are helping to make our commutes smoother, our vehicles smarter, and our destinations more accessible.

Yearly delay per auto commuter is 47 hours in the Twin Cities, according to the Texas A&M Transportation Institute. That’s an entire workweek stuck in traffic (ironically, on our way to and from work). While the Twin Cities aren’t as notorious for traffic problems as, say, Los Angeles (where delay is 80 hours per year), there’s always room for improvement.

How to reduce congestion is one of many questions that need answering. How do we reduce or eliminate crashes? How do we keep drivers focused on the road? In which modes of public transit should we invest the most heavily? Where do we need to improve access to jobs, schools, hospitals and parks?

While these problems are global in scope, solving them at the University of Minnesota makes sense for a few reasons—starting with the Minnesota Department of Transportation.

“MnDOT is probably the most forward-thinking state DOT in the country. They provide us with access to the roads, to their data, to their networks, and they are great people to work with,” says Max Donath, professor of mechanical engineering and director of the Roadway Safety Institute.

There’s also no shortage of knowledge here. From CTS to the Roadway Safety Institute, the Minnesota Traffic Observatory to the Intelligent Vehicles Lab, the University of Minnesota is home to a veritable blue book of experts.

Recently, CSE profiled three U of M experts—all CTS Scholars—and explored the work they’re doing to improve the transportation system:

Adapted from an article by Eve Daniels in the Winter 2016 issue of CSE’s Inventing Tomorrow magazine.

Posted in Accessibility (access to destinations), Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS), Pedestrian, Safety, Technology, Traffic data, Transportation research

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