Blog Archives

System uses smartphone app to warn drivers of high-risk curves

MnDOT2018-12Lane-departure crashes on curves make up a significant portion of fatal crashes on rural Minnesota roads. To improve safety, solutions are needed to help drivers identify upcoming curves and inform them of a safe speed for navigating the curve.

“Traditionally there are two ways to do this: with either static signage or with dynamic warning signs,” says Brian Davis, a research fellow in the Department of Mechanical Engineering. “However, while signing curves can help, static signage is often disregarded by drivers, and it is not required for roads with low average daily traffic. Dynamic speed signs are very costly, which can be difficult to justify, especially for rural roads with low traffic volumes.”

In a recent project led by Davis, researchers developed a method of achieving dynamic curve warnings while avoiding costly infrastructure-based solutions. To do so, they used in-vehicle technology to display dynamic curve-speed warnings to the driver based on the driver’s real-time behavior and position relative to the curve.

Posted in Rural transportation, Safety, Technology, Transportation research

Humphrey School works to ensure self-driving vehicles are accessible to all

A driverless bus on a city streetWhen Myrna Peterson wants to visit downtown Grand Rapids, Minnesota, from her home two miles outside the city limits, she uses the most convenient vehicle she has: her motorized wheelchair. Peterson, who has been in a wheelchair since she was seriously injured in a 1995 car accident, has few other options to get around town.

Grand Rapids, a city of about 11,000 people in north central Minnesota, is like many other small communities in Greater Minnesota. It has limited bus service, especially during the evenings and on weekends. People with mobility issues, like Peterson, face even more constraints when trying to go shopping, get to an appointment, or go out to dinner.

That’s why Peterson has become an advocate for more accessible transportation in her community, and wants Grand Rapids to be the location of a pilot program to test driverless vehicles. Peterson served on a task force, along with researchers from the U of M’s Humphrey School of Public Affairs and CTS, to examine issues of equity and access to driverless cars for people with low incomes or disabilities.

Posted in Accessibility (for people with disabilities), Planning, Rural transportation, Technology, Transportation research

Volunteer driver programs at risk from changing demographics, ridesharing services

Photo of elderly person being helped into a vehicleVolunteer drivers are a key component of human services transportation in Minnesota. They provide low-cost transportation for trips ranging from non-emergency medical appointments to general errands. Most of the organizations that use volunteer drivers are located in small towns or rural areas where dedicated transit services do not exist. But changing demographics and the rise of ridesharing services such as Uber and Lyft could put many volunteer driving programs at risk, according to a new U of M study.

The project, funded by the Minnesota Council on Transportation Access, examined volunteer driver programs in Minnesota. The objectives were to learn which organizations use volunteer drivers, how they organize and fund their volunteer driver programs, and what challenges and barriers they face.

Posted in Accessibility (for people with disabilities), Rural transportation, Sharing economy, Transportation research

Building partnerships with tribal communities to improve safety

tribal1The motor vehicle crash fatality rate is higher for American Indians than for any other ethnic or racial group in the United States. Although the number of fatal crashes decreased in the nation as a whole by about 21 percent from 1975–2013, it increased by about 35 percent on American Indian reservation roads.

“These are huge disparities,” says Associate Professor Kathryn Quick. “Clearly, this is an issue that needs to be explored.”

In a project sponsored by the Roadway Safety Institute, Quick and Research Associate Guillermo Narváez, both with the U of M’s Humphrey School of Public Affairs, are collaborating with American Indian communities to better understand the transportation safety risks on tribal lands and develop strategies to mitigate these risks.

Posted in Pedestrian, Rural transportation, Safety, Transportation research

Drift-free roads design tool now online

designtoolA recent story by KARE 11 highlighted how farmers around Minnesota may be leaving more corn standing this year as living snow fences. These standing corn rows aim to prevent snow from drifting across roadways, thereby reducing maintenance costs and improving safety.

But standing corn rows aren’t the only strategy that can help keep roads drift-free. A new design module on the Blowing Snow Control Tools website offers transportation agencies another tool to help keep blowing snow off of Minnesota roads.

Posted in Environment, Maintenance, Rural transportation, Safety

Exploring transportation safety on tribal lands

TribalThe fatality rate for motor vehicle crashes is higher for American Indians than for any other ethnic or racial group in the United States. Assistant professor Kathryn Quick and research associate Guillermo Narváez, researchers at the U of M’s Humphrey School of Public Affairs, are exploring the issues associated with roadway safety on tribal lands.

In a project sponsored by the Roadway Safety Institute, Quick and Narváez are collaborating with American Indian communities to better understand and mitigate the transportation safety risks on tribal lands.

Posted in Pedestrian, Rural transportation, Safety, Transportation research

Snow Control Tools Webinar Jan. 28

shutterstock_38732917Tune in to this webinar at noon CST on January 28 to learn about the Blowing Snow Control Cost-Benefit Web Tool. This online tool allows transportation agencies to calculate the amount they can pay private landowners (farmers) to establish a living snow fence (shrubs) or to leave standing corn rows or other structures like hay bales or silage bags to reduce blowing snow on sensitive highways.

Posted in Environment, Maintenance, Rural transportation, Safety, Uncategorized
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