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Center for Transportation Studies


Seminar Series – 2006

September 12

"Developing ITS to serve a diverse population"

Frank Douma [Bio]
Assistant Director, State and Local Policy Program, Humphrey Institute, University of Minnesota – Twin Cities

Seminar Article
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In 2003, the State and Local Policy Program (SLPP) at the University of Minnesota's Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs began research into how Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) technologies can be used to deliver transportation services to an increasingly diverse population in Minnesota. The objective of this research is to identify the nature of the gap between the emerging needs and existing services and to propose ways of using technology to bridge the gap, both in terms of providing better transportation options and in reducing the cost of these options.

This project continues this theme through a series of analyses of ITS applications that appear most promising to improve mobility and access for Minnesota's increasingly diverse population. These applications include car sharing, the use of ITS to implement value pricing through conversion of an HOV lane to an HOT lane, and evaluation of Web-based Advanced Traveler Information Systems. Specifically, this presentation will address how technology is enhancing each of these transportation systems, and how it can enhance the transportation services used by diverse populations.

September 26

"Addressing the Driver's Role in Motor Vehicle Crashes: Past Failures, Future Successes"

Dr. Rob Foss [Bio]
Senior Research Scientist and Manager of Alcohol Studies, Highway Safety Research Center, University of North Carolina

Seminar Article
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The vast majority of motor vehicle crashes are attributed to "driver error" rather than either vehicle defects or roadway conditions. Although this oversimplifies a complex issue, it does point to a need to improve the quality of efforts to address driver behaviors if we are to bring about significant declines in crashes. This talk will address reasons why so little progress has been made in dealing with behavioral aspects of traffic safety and present a strategy for how we can do better.

Engineering approaches to vehicle and roadway design routinely incorporate fundamental principles of physics. In contrast, most efforts to address driver behaviors are based on inadequate - or demonstrably incorrect - "common sense" notions of human behavior. This talk will present some examples of misguided efforts, as well as some successful ones, and will show that the critical difference is that the latter implement theoretical principles that have been developed and validated through years of research in the social and behavioral sciences. The substantial barriers to adopting a more scientifically grounded approach to policies and programs concerning driver behaviors will be discussed.

October 10

"Development and Evaluation of a Novel Traffic Friendly Commuter Vehicle"

Dr. Rajesh Rajamani [Bio]
Associate Professor, Department of Mechanical Engineering, University of Minnesota – Twin Cities

Seminar Article
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Traffic congestion in the country’s major metropolitan areas continues to grow every year. Annual increases in traffic demand outpace increases in highway capacity, making it unlikely that roadway expansion can ever provide a solution to highway congestion. This talk discusses the development of a new class of narrow commuter vehicles that can play a significant role in reducing traffic congestion. A prototype narrow vehicle with automatic tilt control has been developed at the University of Minnesota. Results will be presented from a research project focused on making this narrow vehicle as safe, comfortable, and easy to drive as a regular passenger sedan.

October 24

“Toward Scalable and Privacy-Aware Location-Based Services in Transportation"

Dr. Mohamed Mokbel [Bio]
Assistant Professor, Department of Computer Science and Engineering, University of Minnesota – Twin Cities

Seminar Article
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The widespread use of cellular phones, handheld devices, and GPS-related technology enables location-based services where virtually all objects are aware of their locations. Examples of location-based services include location-based store finders, location-based advertising, and traffic reports. This talk will focus on two main aspects of location-based services: scalability and privacy. In terms of scalability, current location-based services deal with each user as an individual entity, an approach which limits the applicability of location-based services to a small number of users. This talk presents a novel paradigm in which multiple users share the query execution within the location-based server. In terms of privacy, current location-based services suffer from a major privacy weakness in that users must continuously report their locations to the server in order to obtain the service. When dealing with untrusted servers, this reporting may expose users to several privacy threats. As an alternative, this talk will present Casper, a new framework in which mobile and stationary users can take advantage of location-based services without revealing their location information.

November 7

"Portable Video Data Processor"

Dr. Nikos Papanikolopoulos [Bio]
Professor, Department of Computer Science and Engineering, University of Minnesota – Twin Cities

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The work presented in this talk aims to produce a traffic vision data processor - a PC-based system that will accept recorded video from intersections, weaving sections, and other areas of interest and produce desired traffic data or other interesting traffic events. Depending on the traffic domain, "interesting events" may range from phenomena that are clear-cut and easily pre-specified by the user to more abstract phenomena that are defined as deviations from normal behavior across some user-specified threshold. In general, for uncontrolled environments such as traffic sites, where target behaviors vary depending on the intersection type, location, camera-viewpoint, etc., it makes more sense for the system to learn normal target behavior patterns from previously observed target trajectories; this strategy increases the ease of portability.

Although several vision-based trackers with emphasis on outdoor scenes exist, most trackers make use of a single visual cue that can provide good target detection as long as certain constraints or assumptions are satisfied. As soon as the scene changes in ways that violate these assumptions, the cues fail to provide any useful information, thereby rendering the tracker inaccurate. The system that will be discussed in this talk incorporates multiple visual cues so that the range of successful operation of the tracker can be increased by reducing the scene constraints. Several experimental results from various traffic sites will also be presented.

November 21

“Collective Responsibility in Freeway Rear-end Collisions - An Application of Causal Models”

Dr. Gary Davis [Bio]
Professor, Department of Civil Engineering, University of Minnesota

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Determining whether an event caused a traffic incident often involves determining the truth of a counterfactual conditional, where what did happen is compared to what would have happened had the alleged cause been absent. A new approach has recently been developed that uses structural causal models to rigorously formulate and answer questions of causality. This approach is proving to be especially well-suited to the reconstruction and analysis of traffic incidents.

This talk will present an application of these new methods to the analysis of freeway rear-end collisions. Starting with video recordings of crashes, trajectory information was extracted and used to estimate initial speeds, following distances, reaction times, and braking rates. Using Brill’s model of rear-end collisions it was then possible to simulate what would have happened had certain driver reactions been other than what they were.

December 5

"Where is the U.S. VII Program Going?"

Ron Heft [Bio (40 KB PDF)]
Senior Principal Engineer, Nissan Technical Center - North America

In this presentation, Ronald Heft will give an overview of the U.S. Vehicle and Infrastructure Integration  (VII) program, including its objectives, participants, content, and current status. (This presentation was previously given by Heft at The Fédération Internationale des Sociétés d'Ingénieurs des Techniques de l'Automobile (FISITA) World Automotive Congress, held in Yokohama, Japan, in October 2006.) In addition, Heft will discuss summary results of real-world testing of the new Dedicated Short Range Communications (DSRC) quality of service performed by Nissan and Applanix, which covered 1,400 miles in the summer of 2006.