Max Donath, Professor, Mechanical Engineering
Since 2004, a key component of the ITS Institute research portfolio has been the improvement of novice teen driver safety through the use of emerging technology. Four teen driver safety projects have either been completed or are nearing completion. In its present realization, The Teen Driver Support System (TDSS) takes a holistic approach by providing teen drivers with critical safety information at the time that unsafe driving occurs. Using a smartphone, this critical safety information includes speed warnings, excessive acceleration and deceleration warnings, stop sign warnings, advance curve-speed notifications, and graduated driver license (GDL) curfew notifications (i.e., driving between midnight and 5 a.m.). In-vehicle sensor components add seatbelt use and passenger occupancy warnings, ensuring that the teen driver follows GDL regulations. The TDSS capitalizes on the role of parents by immediately reporting instances of risky driving behavior and traffic violations to parents via SMS text messaging. This immediate notification reinforces the real-time in-vehicle feedback provided to the teen by the TDSS. Teen driver performance can also be reviewed by a parent on a TDSS website. The event data stored on the TDSS website can potentially reduce parent-teen conflict because the teens' unsafe driving is documented by date, time, and location of event. The TDSS is unique in this product space as it is the only system known to provide accurate, geo-specific, real-time feedback to a teen at the time risky behavior occurs so that behaviors can be corrected immediately. Other devices document and record unsafe behavior, but provide no immediate, context-based, real-time feedback to the teen driver. The research team completed a 12-month field operational test of the system involving 300 newly licensed teens in Minnesota in late 2014. Data analysis is complete; a final report is in preparation. For more information, see the featured research page on this project.