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?
Posted in Bridges and structures
, Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS)
, Traffic operations
, Transportation research
, Urban transportation
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.
Researchers at the U of M’s HumanFIRST Laboratory recently tested how in-vehicle signing—perhaps presented on a smartphone or vehicle display—could alert drivers and modify their behavior. Led by principal investigator Nichole Morris, the project examined how drivers react to in-vehicle sign (IVS) systems designed to prepare them for transitions to new driving conditions such as speed zone changes, school zones, construction zones, and curves.
The project, sponsored by the Minnesota Local Road Research Board, arose from a previous MnDOT study that looked at the feasibility of using smartphones for implementing connected vehicle programs. One of the questions that came out of that study was whether road signage could be eliminated from the roadside and displayed in the vehicle instead. Doing so could save tax dollars related to sign installation and maintenance, improve landscapes, and make it easier to keep signage up-to-date.
Researchers at the U of M’s HumanFIRST Laboratory are helping to make it faster and easier for Minnesota law enforcement officers to log the data they collect at the scene of a crash.
Nichole Morris, principal researcher at the HumanFIRST Lab, and her team redesigned the electronic crash report interface used by Minnesota law enforcement officers to improve the accuracy, reliability, and meaningfulness of crash data. Although at first glance these data appear to serve simply drivers and insurance companies, the information is highly valued because it is used by state and federal agencies, as well as researchers, to analyze and evaluate crashes, trends, and potential countermeasures.
As part of its research into the policy impacts of new transportation technologies under the Transportation Policy and Economic Competitiveness Program, the State and Local Policy Program at the U of M’s Humphrey School of Public Affairs hosted a series of roundtables examining this question in 2015-2016. The events focused on the impacts of the digital infrastructure, specifically self-driving vehicles.
The roundtables examined opportunities and obstacles for improved mobility and access for people who cannot drive, possible impacts on urban form, opportunities for freight transportation, and broader impacts of the digital infrastructure on the physical infrastructure. Roundtable participants included U of M faculty and research staff, key members of state and local governments, and interested citizens.