Blog Archives

Autonomous vehicles and traffic safety: promises and challenges

Jim HedlundTo prepare for autonomous vehicles (AVs), states have complex challenges to address—not the least of which is anticipating a mix of AVs and regular vehicles on their roads for decades. During the TZD statewide conference October 26, Jim Hedlund, principal of Highway Safety North, shared this and other findings from a recent report he authored for the Governor’s Highway Safety Association.

AVs are not necessarily driver-less. Rather, these vehicles are classified on a scale ranging from Level 1, which use established technologies such as adaptive cruise control and lane-keeping assistance but still give control to the driver, to Level 5, which are completely self-driving at all times.

When all vehicles are autonomous, Hedlund said, transportation will become a service, rather than something people own, and crashes will be greatly reduced, since currently about 94 percent of crashes are caused by human error. But predicting just how quickly AVs will be adopted is complicated.

Posted in Events, Safety, Technology

In-vehicle warnings show promise for improving work-zone safety

work-zone road signWork zones can be dangerous for both drivers and the work crew—but U of M researchers are working on innovative ways to lessen these risks and lower the rate of work-zone crashes. In a new study funded by MnDOT, researchers investigated the potential advantages and possible disadvantages of vehicle-to-infrastructure in-vehicle messages to communicate to drivers.

“When we started this project, we saw a potential for drivers to become more aware and responsive to hazards within the work-zone by presenting the information directly to them through in-vehicle messaging technologies,” says Nichole Morris, director of the U’s HumanFIRST Laboratory, who led the project. “We also wanted to assess the extent to which this type of messaging could lead to driver distraction, as numerous studies have demonstrated the hazards of distracted driving, particularly from interacting with on-board technologies.”

The researchers began by identifying ideal design guidelines for any in-vehicle messaging system. Then, the team conducted a survey to uncover driver attitudes in Minnesota toward work-zone safety, smartphone use, and the potential for receiving messages through in-vehicle technologies such as smartphones.

Posted in Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS), Safety, Technology, Transportation research

CTS receives ITS Minnesota achievement award

CTS was honored to receive this year’s Local Agency Technology Initiative Award from ITS Minnesota at the organization’s Fall Forum on October 17. The annual award recognizes a local agency for their achievements in advancing ITS technology in Minnesota.

According to ITS Minnesota, CTS received the 2017 award for outstanding contributions to the ITS community through the research and development of new strategies to improve the safety and efficiency of travel throughout Minnesota.

Posted in Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS), Safety, Transportation research

Untangling the safety impacts of Minnesota’s I-35W improvements

MnPASS system on I-35W in Minneapolis, Minnesota.With the aim of reducing congestion on the Twin Cities’ highly traveled I-35W corridor between the Minnesota River and I-94, the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) began a major set of I-35W improvements in 2009 as part of the Federal Highway Administration’s Urban Partnership Agreement (UPA). Among the improvements was the addition of a priced dynamic shoulder lane (PDSL) on parts of the 17-mile stretch of highway; however, following the opening of these improvements, the frequency of rear-end crashes increased in certain sections—especially in the PDSL regions.

To untangle the underlying causes of this increase, MnDOT enlisted the help of researchers in the Department of Civil, Environmental, and Geo- Engineering. “Our primary objective was to determine if these increases were direct effects of the improvements or if they were due to changes in the traffic conditions,” says Professor Gary Davis, the principal investigator. “MnDOT was interested in extending some or all of these improvements to other corridors but needed to know what the safety impacts were to aid its decision making.”

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

New warning systems aim to reduce rear-end crashes on Minnesota freeways

To reduce congestion and improve safety, the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) has deployed active traffic management (ATM) technology on two freeways in the Twin Cities. The ATM system incorporates intelligent lane control signals placed over selected lanes at half-mile increments to warn motorists of incidents or hazards ahead.

Using this existing ATM infrastructure, U of M researchers have developed and field-tested two prototypes for queue warning systems in a new MnDOT-funded project. The warning systems specifically focus on preventing rear-end collisions—the most frequent type of crash on freeways.

Posted in Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS), Safety, Technology, Traffic operations, Transportation research, Urban transportation

Students deliver fresh look at Brooklyn Park transportation issues

Pedestrian safety and access to healthful foods were some of the issues tackled by U of M students during the 2016–2017 academic year as part of the U’s Resilient Communities Project (RCP).

In its fifth year, RCP—a program of the Center for Urban and Regional Affairs—partnered with the City of Brooklyn Park to advance an array of the city’s strategic priorities. RCP connects communities in Minnesota with U of M faculty and students through collaborative, course-based projects. Communities are chosen in a competitive process.

Posted in Education, Pedestrian, Planning, Public transit, Safety

Infrastructure award to improve driving simulators in U of M lab

Immersive driving simulator cab and projector systemThe U of M’s HumanFIRST Laboratory has received a 2017 Research Infrastructure Investment Program award of just over $186,000 from the U’s Office of the Vice President for Research.

The lab is a facility of the Department of Mechanical Engineering. It conducts research to collect, analyze, and understand driver behavior generated during driving simulation studies and field tests of enhanced human-machine interfaces designed to reduce risky driving behaviors.

The lab houses two advanced driving simulators, which together host most of its research experiments. Funds from the award will be used to overhaul components of both simulators. The upgrade is expected to re-engage Minnesota as a national leader in driving behavior research.

Posted in Safety, Technology, Transportation research
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