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Research Laboratories at the U.S. DOT Volpe Center

Scott Gabree using B-RX simulator
U.S. DOT Volpe Center staff using the FRA Behavior and Railroad Crossings Laboratory (B-RX) at the U.S. DOT Volpe Center's Human Factors Lab. (U.S. DOT Volpe Center image) 

Our new U.S. DOT Volpe Center facility features approximately 26,000 usable square feet of state-of-the-art, accessible lab space that allows our researchers to collaborate and innovate to test theoretical concepts in real-world simulations and put research to work to advance transportation innovation for the public good.     

U.S. DOT Volpe Center staff manages collections of specialized equipment and laboratory facilities to conduct innovative transportation research on behalf of our sponsors.   

Human Factors Safety across Modes – Demonstrations  

The U.S. DOT Volpe Center’s Transportation Human Factors team provides internationally recognized human factors research, engineering, development, and evaluation capabilities within a human systems integration framework. The U.S. DOT Volpe Center pioneers new research focused on the relationships between humans and policies, processes, automation, and technologies to improve transportation safety, security, and productivity with due concern for unintended consequences. 

Work underway at the U.S. DOT Volpe Center’s Human Factors Laboratory is focused on improving transportation safety by developing and applying innovative human factors processes and principles to its sponsors programs and initiatives.  

Demonstrations are available on the following topics:  

  • Behavior at Railroad Grade Crossings: Crashes at highway-railroad grade crossings remain one of the leading causes of accidents, injury, and death within the U.S. railroad system. Research conducted in FRA’s Behavior and Railroad Crossings Laboratory (B-RX) helps support increased safety by learning more about driver behavior at grade crossings. This knowledge can be used to maximize the safety interventions related to education, engineering, and enforcement. 

  • Design and Impacts of Locomotive Cab Technologies: FRA’s Cab Technology Integration Laboratory (CTIL) is a high-fidelity, full-sized locomotive simulator configured with tools for studying the boundaries of operator capability and performance, as well as the impact of new technologies. Research conducted in this lab includes informing the design of future technologies through researching human factors considerations such as display interface design and workstation ergonomics.  

  • Evaluating Alcohol Test and Detection Devices: Started in 1970, the U.S. DOT Volpe Center’s Alcohol Countermeasures Laboratory is the primary NHTSA-recognized laboratory with the authority to test and approve alcohol-detection devices that are used by law enforcement and the transportation industry, evaluated according to NHTSA’s Model Specifications for evidential breath testers, alcohol screening devices, and calibrating units. The U.S. DOT Volpe Center team also uses this lab to evaluate other alcohol test devices of interest because of potential usefulness in alcohol countermeasures, such as ignition interlock devices, disposable or re-useable personal breath testers, passive breath testers, or devices that test other fluids for alcohol (e.g., saliva testers). 

  • Evaluating How Pilots Interact with New Technology: The U.S. DOT Volpe Center’s 737 NextGen Flight Deck Simulator sheds light on how pilots interact with new technology and provides a platform for “human-in-the-loop” experiments, allowing in-situ investigations into new technologies, automated systems, and procedures. The simulator supports two-crew simulations by adding functional automation to replicate crew workload, airport surface procedures, and all flight phases. 

Learn more about our Transportation Human Factors team here