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Center for Transportation Studies

Federal visitors experience new technologies first hand

The ITS Institute welcomed visitors from the federal government’s Research and Innovative Technology Administration (RITA) and a delegation of Congressional staffers gathering information on transportation issues in May and June. Both groups of visitors had the opportunity to tour the Institute’s research facilities and see first-hand how new technologies are being developed and deployed to improve the nation’s transportation system.

RITA, a division of the U.S. Department of Transportation, is charged with administering the University Transportation Centers (UTC) program, under which the ITS Institute was established. RITA representatives carry out periodic site visits to UTC locations around the country to review their operations and consult with researchers about new and ongoing initiatives in research, education, and outreach.

In addition to hearing presentations by ITS Institute staff, the visitors toured the HumanFIRST Program’s advanced driving simulator and the Minnesota Traffic Observatory, and rode a transit bus equipped with driver-assistive systems developed by the Intelligent Vehicles (IV) Laboratory. They also met with Professor Demoz Gebre-Egziabher of the Department of Aerospace Engineering, who presented his current work on uninhabited aerial vehicles for traffic surveillance and remote sensing.

RITA staff members also accompanied the congressional staff delegation that arrived in Minnesota for a one-day tour of Institute facilities May 29. IV Lab director Craig Shankwitz led a demonstration of the Institute’s driver-assistive systems for bus rapid transit and explained the motivation for developing new technologies that can provide better transit options to urban and suburban residents.

Staff members experienced some of the bus’s systems by sitting in a second driver’s seat equipped with haptic feedback devices that transmit vibration when the bus deviates from its lane. The onboard wireless access point proved to be equally impressive, allowing the busy staffers to check their e-mail while riding—a feature that will be included on the “Bus 2.0” vehicles rolled out in the coming year by the Minnesota Valley Transit Authority.