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.
University of Minnesota researchers at the Minnesota Traffic Observatory will work to improve the mobility of people and goods across the nation as part of the new Freight Mobility Research Institute, a Tier 1 University Transportation Center funded in 2016.
Led by Florida Atlantic University (FAU), the Institute will receive $1.4 million per year from the United States Department of Transportation for five years. A combined match from state and private-sector sources will bring the award to more than $10 million in total. In addition to FAU and the U of M, Institute members include the University of Florida, Portland State University, Hampton University, the University of Memphis, and Texas A&M University (College Station).
Imagine that you’re driving to work as usual when your smartphone announces, “Caution, you are approaching an active work zone.” You slow down and soon spot orange barrels and highway workers on the road shoulder. Thanks to a new app being developed by University of Minnesota researchers, this scenario is on its way to becoming reality.
“Drivers often rely on signs along the roadway to be cautious and slow down as they approach a work zone. However, most work-zone crashes are caused by drivers not paying attention,” says Chen-Fu Liao, senior systems engineer at the U’s Minnesota Traffic Observatory. “That’s why we are working to design and test an in-vehicle work-zone alert system that announces additional messages through the driver’s smartphone or the vehicle’s infotainment system.”
As part of the project, sponsored by the Minnesota Department of Transportation, Liao and his team investigated the use of inexpensive Bluetooth low-energy (BLE) tags to provide in-vehicle warning messages. The BLE tags were programmed to trigger spoken messages in smartphones within range of the tags, which were placed on construction barrels or lampposts ahead of a work zone.
It’s National Work-Zone Awareness Week (NWZAW), and this year’s campaign urges drivers to recognize that work-zone safety is in their hands. NWZAW is held each year in the spring to bring national attention to motorist and worker safety and mobility issues in work zones.
University of Minnesota researchers are always working on new solutions to help improve work-zone safety. Read the full post for examples of recent and ongoing projects.
U of M researchers have received funding from MnDOT’s Transportation Research Innovation Group and the Minnesota Local Road Research Board (LRRB) for 15 new projects beginning this summer.
Researchers will tackle a number of big transportation questions: How should our transportation agencies prepare for connected vehicle technology? Are unseen factors affecting safety at rural intersections? Can Twin Cities roadsides be used to grow habitat for endangered bumble bees?
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, Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS)
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Innotronics LLC, a company launched by the U of M’s Venture Center based on scientific discoveries made by CTS Scholar Rajesh Rajamani, was named among the “Best University Startups 2016” in August by the National Council of Entrepreneurial Tech Transfer.
Innotronics, based in Stillwater, MN, develops non-contacting position sensors for use in construction and agriculture vehicles, as well as in industrial material handling systems.
Rajamani conducted the original research behind this technology in a project funded by the U’s Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) Institute, a federally funded University Transportation Center (UTC) at the U of M from 1991 to 2013. In that project, Rajamani led the development of magnetic sensing technology that could be used to predict imminent collisions in passenger vehicles. The ITS Institute was succeeded in 2013 by the U of M-led Roadway Safety Institute, the Region 5 UTC, where Rajamani continues to conduct safety-related research.