Research Projects

Research for safer transportation

Driving, walking, or biking—however people get to their destinations, we work to understand how to make modes of transportation safer. We collaborate with other research centers and institutes and work extensively with the federal government, all for research that has real-world impact in making the world we move in a safer place.

The Second Strategic Highway Research Program (SHRP 2) was established by Congress to investigate the underlying causes of highway crashes and congestion in a short–term program of focused research. The Naturalistic Driving Study is the largest coordinated safety program ever undertaken in the United States, directed at improving highway safety. The objective was to identify countermeasures which will significantly improve highway safety through an understanding of driving behaviors. The SHRP 2 Naturalistic Driving Study looked at how people normally drive by installing cameras and sensors in people’s own vehicles. The study incorporated approximately 3,300 drivers in six states throughout the United States.

The participant’s vehicles were outfitted with equipment that collected data continuously, from the time the vehicle was turned on until it was turned off. The video captured the driver’s face, arms, and legs that showed us what they did while they drove. We also collected video of the forward roadway and the roadway behind the vehicle. GPS provided locations of the vehicle and sensors measured speed, braking, turn signal use and other vehicle and driver behaviors.

The study data is expected to be useful for an entire generation of transportation safety professionals who seek to learn more about driver behavior, what causes crashes, and how to prevent them. The data collected from our study will be used to design safer roads and vehicles, develop more effective driver education, and enact sensible, evidence-based laws and regulations that will result in safer cars and roadways.

Since 1972, the National Center for Statistics and Analysis’s Special Crash Investigations Program has provided the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration with the most in-depth and detailed level of crash investigation data collected by the agency. The data collected ranges from basic data contained in routine police and insurance crash reports to comprehensive data from special reports by professional crash investigation teams.  We at the Transportation Research Center are one of the three SCI investigative teams.

Hundreds of data elements relevant to the vehicle, occupants, injury mechanisms, roadway, and safety systems are collected for each of the over 100 crashes designated for study annually. The benefit of the program is its ability to locate unique real-world crashes anywhere in the country and perform in-depth clinical investigations in a timely manner that can be used by the automotive safety community to improve the performance of its advanced safety systems.

The CIREN Program was established based on a recommendation from the National Academy of Sciences. Among the recommendations was to have injury studied in cooperation by a multidisciplinary group consisting of experts from engineering, medicine, and other appropriate professions. This multidisciplinary approach is the keystone of the CIREN program.

The mission of CIREN is to improve the prevention, treatment, and rehabilitation of motor vehicle crash injuries to reduce deaths, disabilities, and human and economic costs. Our staff at the Transportation Research Center focuses on the quality control component.

We have partnered with the Transportation Active Safety Institute (TASI) and Ohio State University to work on a two-phase collaborative research project that started in August 2011. The project was developed to test protocols for automotive pre-crash systems (PCS) designed to prevent pedestrian and bicyclist-related car accidents.

TASI was founded in February 2006, and officially recognized as an IUPUI campus-wide center in January 2007. TASI is a university-wide interdisciplinary center for advanced automotive-safety research and development on the IUPUI campus in Indianapolis.

The study will draw on available crash data in NHTSA databases, analyze vehicle crash data from the Automated Reporting Information Exchange System (ARIES) maintained by the Indiana State Police, and original vehicle testing to develop more sophisticated and realistic test scenarios for PCS with the goal of improving pedestrian and bicyclist safety.

We use our expertise in the area of field crash data to collaborate with TASI. The identification and reconstruction of crashes that included vehicles equipped with active safety systems help to identify when and how intelligent transportation systems fail. This information is useful in the continuing process of redesigning those systems.

The number of factors for describing pedestrian crashes is large.  So our objective is to provide some coherent information about how the pedestrian crash occurred. The analysis leads to three key groups of variables:

  1. Pedestrians and their actions
  2. Vehicles and their actions
  3. The environment

Our description of pedestrians includes their demographics, representing physical characteristics with a test surrogate, some alternatives for describing their clothing choices, analysis of their walking speeds, limb motion and gait, and a classification of their behavior into a single variable with a compact set of values. This variable summarize s their path relative to the vehicle, their walking speed, stance and the presence of any obscuring objects.

Vehicles and their actions include information about the ages and types of vehicles involved in crashes, their motions just prior to the pedestrian crash, and most importantly an analysis of vehicle speeds.

Over the last several decades, bicycles have become an increasingly important part of our overall transportation system. Bicycles are used by adults and children for recreation, transportation, and as an effective tool to combat obesity through increased mobility. This increased activity is not without unintended social consequence. Since 2008, bicyclist fatalities in the United States have consistently increased, with a total of to 726 fatalities and 49,000 injuries reported in 2012 alone. This pilot study will help researchers gain a deeper understanding of the interaction between bicyclists, the roadway and other roadway users.

Up to 45 subjects will be recruited in the Bloomington and Indianapolis areas. While the bulk of our data will be collected during spring, summer, and fall months, we also intend to capture some data during harsh winter weather. These participants will represent a variety of age, ethnic and gender groups. Our study is being funded under an IU Collaborative Research Fund.

The University Transportation Centers program was established by the United States Department of Transportation in 1987 as part of a government effort to improve transportation research and education in the U.S. and to strengthen the country's competitiveness in the global transportation industry. UTC is an internationally recognized center of excellence, fully integrated within institutions of higher learning, that serve as a vital source of leaders who are prepared to meet the nation’s need for safe, efficient and environmentally sound movement of people and goods. The mission of UTC is to advance U.S. technology and expertise in the many disciplines comprising transportation through the mechanisms of education, research and technology transfer at university-based centers of excellence.

Our role at the Transportation Research Center is to evaluate safety systems by integrating and simulating pedestrian and bicycle accidents. We evaluate the effectiveness of Intelligent Transportation Systems, including pre-crash systems in vehicles. The identification and reconstruction of crashes that included vehicles equipped with these active safety systems will help to identify when and how those systems fail.

Because the urban delivery vehicle is often a high-mileage vehicle operated in congested metropolitan areas, hybrid technology is potentially well suited to this application. This research examines the benefits and costs of propulsion systems for urban delivery vehicles in the United States and Europe. The analysis will reflect at least two perspectives, a consumer perspective and a societal perspective that ignores transfer payments (i.e., tax effects) but includes externalities such as energy security, carbon dioxide emissions and conventional tailpipe pollutants.

Investigators: John D. Graham and Kerry Krutilla.