Happiness: a new way to measure transportation systems

People experience different emotions during daily travel. Their happiness varies depending on the mode they use, trip duration, and other factors. U of M researchers are exploring how happiness could become a useful metric to assess transportation systems and guide policymaking, supplementing more common measures such as mobility and accessibility.

“Happiness is increasingly seen as a gauge of an individual’s well-being, and this has many social implications,” says Yingling Fan, associate professor in the Humphrey School of Public Affairs. “Happier people often are more productive and creative, have better family and social relationships, live longer, and, in general, are more successful.”

Americans spend, on average, about 75 minutes on daily trips. “Given the known benefits of emotional well-being, it’s important for planners and policymakers to understand the connection between transportation and happiness,” Fan says.

Posted in Bicycling, Planning, Public transit, Transportation research, Travel Behavior

Autonomous vehicles and traffic safety: promises and challenges

Jim HedlundTo prepare for autonomous vehicles (AVs), states have complex challenges to address—not the least of which is anticipating a mix of AVs and regular vehicles on their roads for decades. During the TZD statewide conference October 26, Jim Hedlund, principal of Highway Safety North, shared this and other findings from a recent report he authored for the Governor’s Highway Safety Association.

AVs are not necessarily driver-less. Rather, these vehicles are classified on a scale ranging from Level 1, which use established technologies such as adaptive cruise control and lane-keeping assistance but still give control to the driver, to Level 5, which are completely self-driving at all times.

When all vehicles are autonomous, Hedlund said, transportation will become a service, rather than something people own, and crashes will be greatly reduced, since currently about 94 percent of crashes are caused by human error. But predicting just how quickly AVs will be adopted is complicated.

Posted in Events, Safety, Technology

In-vehicle warnings show promise for improving work-zone safety

work-zone road signWork zones can be dangerous for both drivers and the work crew—but U of M researchers are working on innovative ways to lessen these risks and lower the rate of work-zone crashes. In a new study funded by MnDOT, researchers investigated the potential advantages and possible disadvantages of vehicle-to-infrastructure in-vehicle messages to communicate to drivers.

“When we started this project, we saw a potential for drivers to become more aware and responsive to hazards within the work-zone by presenting the information directly to them through in-vehicle messaging technologies,” says Nichole Morris, director of the U’s HumanFIRST Laboratory, who led the project. “We also wanted to assess the extent to which this type of messaging could lead to driver distraction, as numerous studies have demonstrated the hazards of distracted driving, particularly from interacting with on-board technologies.”

The researchers began by identifying ideal design guidelines for any in-vehicle messaging system. Then, the team conducted a survey to uncover driver attitudes in Minnesota toward work-zone safety, smartphone use, and the potential for receiving messages through in-vehicle technologies such as smartphones.

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

Access to jobs by transit increases in many U.S. metros

Annually updated research from the Accessibility Observatory at the University of Minnesota ranks 49 of the 50 largest (by population) metropolitan areas in the United States for connecting workers with jobs via transit.

The new rankings, part of the Access Across America national pooled-fund study that began in 2013, focus on accessibility, a measure that examines both land use and transportation systems. Accessibility measures how many destinations, such as jobs, can be reached in a given time.

Though rankings of the top 10 metro areas for job accessibility by transit remain unchanged from the previous year, new data comparing changes within each of the 49 largest U.S. metros over one year helped researchers identify the places with the greatest increases in access to jobs by transit. Cincinnati and Charlotte improved more than 11 percent. Seattle, which ranks 8th for job accessibility by transit, improved nearly 11 percent. In all, 36 of the 49 largest metros showed increases in job accessibility by transit.

Posted in Accessibility (access to destinations), Transportation research

New video traces progress of accessibility research

CTS has been celebrating its 30th anniversary this year with a look back at significant milestones. One of our goals for the anniversary was to show how research progresses over time to lead to new knowledge.

Today at our annual Transportation Research Conference, we debuted a video about an important research topic: accessibility metrics. In the new video, Andrew Owen, the director of the U’s Accessibility Observatory, explains how accessibility looks at the end-to-end purpose of transportation: fulfilling people’s need to reach destinations.

Posted in 30th anniversary, Accessibility (access to destinations), Transportation research

CTS receives ITS Minnesota achievement award

CTS was honored to receive this year’s Local Agency Technology Initiative Award from ITS Minnesota at the organization’s Fall Forum on October 17. The annual award recognizes a local agency for their achievements in advancing ITS technology in Minnesota.

According to ITS Minnesota, CTS received the 2017 award for outstanding contributions to the ITS community through the research and development of new strategies to improve the safety and efficiency of travel throughout Minnesota.

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

Engines lab receives $1.4 million to improve delivery vehicle energy efficiency

The University of Minnesota’s Thomas E. Murphy Engine Research Laboratory has received $1.4 million to research ways to boost the energy efficiency of cloud-connected delivery vehicles. The funding was awarded by the NEXTCAR Program of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy.

The U’s NEXTCAR project researchers are partnering with UPS and electric vehicle manufacturing company Workhorse to improve the energy efficiency of medium-duty delivery vehicles through real-time powertrain optimization using two-way vehicle-to-cloud connectivity.

Posted in Engines, Freight, Technology, Transportation research
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