The 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.
Last week, the Roadway Safety Institute (RSI) introduced White Earth Nation students to transportation-related topics as part of the White Earth Indian Reservation Summer Academy of Math and Science.
The two-week day camp uses hands-on learning and Indian culture to teach students in grades 4 to 8 about math, science, and engineering. It is offered in partnership by the White Earth Nation and the University of Minnesota Extension. This is the third year that RSI has participated in the program.
Rear-end crashes are a major cause of highway traffic slowdowns, and preventing these congestion-causing incidents requires a clear understanding of why they occur in the first place. On the surface, it might seem like the driver who rear-ends another vehicle is the primary cause of the collision; however, the reality is much more complex.
In a new study, U of M researchers found that because shockwaves—areas of suddenly stopping or slowing traffic—are usually the cause of rear-end collisions on highways, drivers at the front of a group of cars may have as much or more to do with the rear-end collisions happening at the back of the group than those involved in the crashes themselves.
When drivers approach a roadway work zone at high speeds, they put the lives of work-zone flaggers at risk. To keep flaggers safe on the job, U of M researchers are looking for better ways to capture drivers’ attention—and compel them to slow down—as they approach flagger-controlled work zones.
Kathleen Harder, director of the Center for Design in Health, and John Hourdos, director of the Minnesota Traffic Observatory, identified and tested new work-zone warning elements to more effectively capture and sustain driver attention. The project was funded by the Minnesota Department of Transportation and the Minnesota Local Road Research Board.
A new app that sends warning messages to drivers as they approach work zones was featured on KARE 11 News on Thursday. The app was developed by U of M researchers in a project sponsored by MnDOT.
The story aired as part of KARE 11’s #eyesUP campaign to end distracted driving.
The app works by pairing with Bluetooth low-energy tags placed in work zones, triggering audio warnings in smartphones that are within their range. This allows drivers to get a warning message without having to look down at their phones—or at warning devices such as changeable message signs outside their vehicles.
In the United States, speeding is by far the leading factor in fatal crashes—equivalent to the use of drugs, alcohol, medication, and distracted driving combined. But although automated speed enforcement (ASE) is a promising countermeasure shown to reduce speeding and crashes, the idea remains contentious.
“Despite the demonstrated safety benefits of ASE, we’ve seen its deployment continue to be a highly controversial issue,” says Frank Douma, director of the State and Local Policy Program at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs. “Several states have enacted restrictions or even banned the use of ASE systems, and ASE has been rejected in a number of public referendums.”
To chart a possible path to ASE deployment, U of M researchers have completed a new study focusing on ASE in Minnesota. The research team included Douma, graduate research assistant Colleen Peterson with the Humphrey School, and Nichole Morris, principal researcher with the HumanFIRST Lab. The project was funded by the Roadway Safety Institute.
In observance of National Bike Month and Bike to Work Week 2017, Brendan Murphy of the U of M’s Accessibility Observatory shares his work on bicyclist safety in Minneapolis in this guest post.
More people are biking or walking to work in North American cities each year, including here in the Twin Cities. With increased biking and walking, more opportunities for conflict with cars exist, and the safety of our more vulnerable road users becomes an increasingly important consideration.
The goal of this study, funded by the Roadway Safety Institute, was to attempt to predict crash rates between cars and bicycles at street intersections in Minneapolis—based on car and bike traffic levels—and then assess whether areas of the city exist that have much higher per-bicyclist crash rates.