Blog Archives

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

What’s really behind rear-end highway crashes?

Congested vehicle traffic on a freewayRear-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.

Posted in Safety, Transportation research, Urban transportation

New light-rail transit leads to sizable increase in nearby housing values

A house for sale near the Green Line light rail Light-rail transit (LRT) is commonly thought to stimulate economic development and boost property values. However, knowledge gaps have made it difficult to gauge exactly how much property values increase and when the increase happens.

In a new study, U of M researchers Jason Cao and Shengnan Lou help fill those gaps. Using tax parcel data and modeling techniques, they assessed the impacts of the Green Line LRT on sale prices of single-family houses near station areas in Saint Paul. They also examined when the value uplift occurred, focusing on two key time points—before and after the Federal Transit Administration’s announcement of the full funding grant agreement (FFGA) in April 2011, and before and after the start of Green Line operation in June 2014.

Posted in Economics, Planning, Public transit, Transportation research, Urban transportation

Minnesota transportation funding: How are federal, state dollars redistributed?

Transportation funding comes from all levels of government—federal, state, and local. Funding that is directly generated by local taxes and fees stays in corresponding local jurisdictions (counties, cities, and townships, for example). Federal and state transportation funding, however, is allocated through certain budgetary procedures and may not be used in the original point of collection. How are these transportation funds redistributed in Minnesota? An analysis from U of M researchers offers new perspectives.

For the study, which looked at the six-year period between 2009 and 2014, the researchers analyzed funding revenues and expenditures at the district level (see map of Minnesota’s eight districts) for both roadways and transit.

Posted in Transportation funding, Transportation research

Reducing speeds to improve safety for work-zone flaggers

Work-zone flagger holding a stop sign up for cars as they approach a construction zoneWhen 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.

Posted in Construction, Safety, Traffic operations, 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
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