Blog Archives

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

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

Policies needed to ensure the promise of self-driving vehicles for those unable to drive

Dashboard of a self-driving vehicleOne of the predicted benefits of self-driving vehicles (SDVs) is improved mobility and access for those unable to drive. The extent to which this happens, however, will depend not just on marketplace competition, but also on public policy decisions that ensure an equitable transportation system.

This is the conclusion of a new analysis by Frank Douma, director of the State and Local Policy Program (SLPP) at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs; Adeel Lari, director of innovative financing at SLPP; and Kory Andersen, graduate student in urban and regional planning. The research was conducted under the Transportation Policy and Economic Competitiveness Program, which is led by SLPP.

Posted in Accessibility (for people with disabilities), Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS), Intelligent vehicles, Technology, Transportation research

New work-zone warning app featured on KARE 11

KARE 11 reporters interviewing researcher Chen-Fu Liao next to a highway work zone.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.

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

Charting a path toward automated speed enforcement

ASEIn 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.

Posted in Safety, Technology, Transportation research

U of M researchers join new Freight Mobility Research Institute

Trucks in highway trafficUniversity 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).

Posted in Economics, Freight, Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS), Technology, Traffic data, Transportation research
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