November 15, 2001 (25)

Transportation Research Institute to test crash avoidance systems

ANN ARBOR---Under a $10 million Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) contract, the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute (UMTRI) and partners Visteon Corp. and AssistWare Technology Inc. will develop and test a new crash avoidance system in a fleet of 11 passenger cars. UMTRI will serve as the prime contractor, coordinating the work of the partnership and conducting the field experiment.

The system is designed to prevent "road departure" or "run-off-road" crashes, which account for 41 percent of all in-vehicle fatalities in the United States (some 15,000 per year). Crashes of this type occur for a variety of reasons, from excessive speed to driver inattention or incapacitation (due to drowsiness or intoxication).

UMTRI and its partners plan to develop a dual-mode, Road Departure Crash Warning (RDCW) system, which will alert the driver when the vehicle begins to wander off the road---or when the vehicle is traveling too fast for an upcoming curve. The system, which will use information gathered by inertial, video, and radar sensors, plus a global positioning system module, could prevent or lessen the impact of some road departure crashes.

"This research builds upon UMTRI's growing strength in naturalistic measurement of the driving process," says UMTRI's Robert D. Ervin, project director on the study. "We hope to observe the way lay persons interact with this novel warning system when they operate one of the instrumented test vehicles for several weeks as their personal car."

The contract is one of two that UMTRI recently received from FHWA. Under a $16 million contract, UMTRI will focus on human factors research that examines driver capabilities and limitations in order to make the driving task safer, easier and more efficient. University-wide, the two contracts are ranked among the five highest received thus far in the current fiscal year, which began July 1, 2001. Receiving two contracts of this size "reaffirms UMTRI's position as the premier place to do driving research," says UMTRI director Barry Kantowitz.

Contact: Nancy Ross-Flanigan
Phone: (734) 647-1853