Volpe Center Highlights
Reducing Motor Vehicle Crashes with the DOT's Intelligent Vehicle Initiative (NHTSA)
Each year, more than 6 million vehicle crashes occur on our nation's highways. Crashes kill more than 41,000 people, injure approximately 3.4 million others, and cost more than $150 billion per year. Over the last several decades, public information and education campaigns, standard safety equipment, and improved vehicle crashworthiness and highway design have all contributed to improved safety. Driver error, however, remains the leading cause of highway crashes. Through the Intelligent Vehicle Initiative (IVI), the DOT hopes to reduce crashes by helping drivers avoid hazardous mistakes. The goal of the IVI is to accelerate the development and commercialization of vehicle-based driver assistance products that can assess the driving environment in ways that drivers cannot. Such products will warn drivers of dangerous situations, recommend actions, and even assume partial control of vehicles to avoid collisions, ultimately reducing deaths and injuries.
The Volpe Center supports the DOT's Intelligent Vehicle Initiative, whose mission is to accelerate the development, introduction, and commercialization of driver-assistance products such as Intelligent Cruise Control shown above. Such products have significant potential benefits.
Helping Drivers Avoid Hazardous Mistakes
Driver error is the primary cause of about 90% of reported crashes involving passenger vehicles, trucks, and buses. The Volpe Center supports the IVI program in helping drivers avoid hazardous mistakes.
Some high-end "smart cars" already have add-ons such as crash-avoidance systems that maintain a vehicle's position in the center of the lane; night-vision capabilities to detect people, animals, or objects in the dark; and cruise control that automatically adjusts to maintain a safe distance from other vehicles. These and future advanced safety systems are expected to save lives, to lessen injuries, and to reduce financial losses by reducing the number and severity of vehicle crashes. These safety improvements to vehicles could also show secondary benefits such as increased transportation mobility, productivity, and other operational improvements.
IVI products and services will encompass in-vehicle systems such as those mentioned above; cooperative vehicle-to-vehicle systems, which enable cars to send and receive information from each other about their relative locations; and cooperative vehicle-to-infrastructure systems such as traffic lights that send information to cars warning them of upcoming red lights. IVI addresses four types of vehicles: light (passenger) vehicles, transit and intercity buses, commercial trucks, and specialty vehicles such as emergency and road utility vehicles. Moreover, the initiative includes the development of industry-wide architecture and standards, integrated system prototyping, and field operational test evaluations. In this way, government and industry can assess benefits, define the performance requirements, and accelerate the deployment of effective driver assistance products and services.
Providing Technical Support to NHTSA in IVI Implementation
Understanding How Crashes Happen
Recognizing that the development of effective driver assistance products requires a rigorous understanding of the collisions themselves, NHTSA asked Volpe to analyze crash scenarios and identify potentially effective countermeasures.
The Volpe Center has been providing technical support to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) under the IVI for the light vehicle platform since 1999. The Center's studies include: an analysis of different types of crashes (i.e., crossing-path, off-roadway, lane change, and pedestrian and pedalcyclists); an analysis of rear-end crashes; an assessment of traffic simulation models to evaluate the safety performance of intelligent vehicle systems; an analysis of how drivers respond to an imminent rear-end collision when their cars are equipped with intelligent cruise control systems; a study of countermeasures for intersection-crossing-path and off-roadway crashes; a traffic safety evaluation framework for IVI crash countermeasures; and the development of objective test procedures for crash countermeasure systems. Details of recent analyses of crash types follow.
Lane Change Crashes
Collisions during lane changes and merges account for 1 in 25 of all crashes. Volpe's analysis of lane change crashes could enable the development of effective crash-avoidance systems.
Recently, the Center's Accident Prevention Division completed an analysis of lane change crashes for NHTSA's Office of Vehicle Safety Research. Lane change crashes are defined as two-vehicle crashes that occur when one vehicle encroaches into the path of another vehicle initially on a parallel path with the first vehicle and traveling in the same direction. These crashes include many vehicle maneuvers such as changing lanes, passing, leaving a parking space, drifting, turning, and merging. The Volpe study, which analyzed lane change crashes reported in 1999, focuses on a selected portion of these crashes to enable the development of potential lane change, crash avoidance systems. Dr. Wassim Najm and Mr. John Smith of the Division and Dr. Basav Sen of EG&G Technical Services (a Volpe contractor) conducted this analysis, which was completed in February 2002.
Single-vehicle roadway departures account for 1 in 5 of reported crashes. A Volpe team is analyzing countermeasure systems to help prevent off-roadway crashes, which usually involve a single vehicle.
Off-roadway crashes occur when a moving vehicle departs the travel roadway and then experiences a harmful event. Mr. Jonathan Koopmann and Dr. Wassim Najm of the Accident Prevention Division analyzed off-roadway crash countermeasure systems in support of IVI. They defined off-roadway crashes and described their pre-crash scenarios and crash-contributing factors, then used this information to define countermeasure concepts and functional requirements for technology to warn drivers of an imminent road edge crossing or a vehicle control loss on straight or curved roadways. The team performed a technology survey to assess the status of applicable state-of-the-art technologies, and then forecast the progression of future countermeasure systems. On March 5, 2002, Mr. Koopmann presented this work in a paper titled "Analysis of Off-Roadway Crash Countermeasures for Intelligent Vehicle Applications," at the Society of Automotive Engineers World Congress in Detroit, Michigan. Dr. Najm co-authored the paper.
Crashes Involving Pedestrians and Pedalcyclists
The Accident Prevention Division is also investigating the cause of, and potential solutions to, motor vehicle crashes involving pedestrians and pedalcyclists (i.e., bicyclists). The goal of this work is to enable the development of concepts, functional requirements, performance guidelines, and test procedures, as well as the safety assessment of potential pedestrian and pedalcyclist crash avoidance systems. Recently, Mr. Marco daSilva of the Division presented a technical paper at the Institute of Transportation Engineers' 2002 Spring Conference and Exhibit held March 24 to 27, 2002 in Palm Harbor, Florida. The paper, titled "Pre-Crash Scenario Development for Pedestrian and Pedalcyclist Crash Problems," presents a summary of the most prevalent findings obtained from Volpe's analysis of pedestrian and pedalcyclist crash problems. The results are intended to support development of effective countermeasure concepts and provide data for the design of effectiveness assessments. These findings help researchers quantify the different conditions present in pedestrian and pedalcyclist crashes by identifying vehicle maneuver and pedestrian/pedalcyclist action combinations most prevalent in such crashes. Dr. David Yang of the Division also attended the conference, participating in a special discussion session on traffic signal timing, and attending several technical sessions related to intersection safety and red light running.
The Volpe Center is committed to helping NHTSA and DOT support the development of safe, effective, and cost-efficient technology that can become standard equipment on the vehicles of the future.