August 6, 2014

Technology innovators are abuzz about the “Internet of Things,” or how objects talk to each other, including speculation about how cars will communicate in the future to improve road safety and traffic operation. For LSU Civil and Environmental Engineering Professor Sherif Ishak, the future is now. Thanks to a grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation, Ishak is conducting research on the impact of receiving communication about driving conditions from oncoming cars and driver performance using LSU College of Engineering’s driving simulator.

“We used to rely on stationary devices to collect and transmit this data,” said Ishak, “but they can’t cover large metropolitan areas. If vehicles can communicate with each other they can act as hubs, and communication can hop from car to car. This way, drivers can get information from outside transmission range.”   

Research on vehicle-to-vehicle communication or v2v, introduces existing technology to the automotive industry and reduces the cost of collecting traffic information. A car that just drove through a heavily-congested construction zone could, for instance, transmit a message to vehicles headed toward the area with expected delay times and alternate routes. Upon receipt of the message, drivers can then assess their travel needs and alter their course accordingly.

“We are putting people in the simulator, giving a random sample of them traffic information they might receive from a connected vehicle, and observing how they behave,” explained Osama Osman, Ishak’s graduate assistant. “We can attribute any difference in behavior between the two groups to the traffic message.”

Ishak and Osman are experimenting with different display elements to find the optimal balance between connectivity and safety. Their goal is to minimize the amount of cognitive function required to receive and process the messages so people can remain focused on driving safely. Among other things, they are testing how text size and message location impact drivers.  

“We are looking at application of the device,” said Osman, “so we can improve driving conditions without overloading drivers. We want to learn the optimal location and size of the text and display panel, and the type of information it should transmit.”

Car manufacturers are anxious to get this technology into their cars and on the road. Before it does, however, it is critical to understand how market penetration will impact connectivity between vehicles, and with it the efficacy of vehicle-to-vehicle transmissions. In addition to the driving simulator tests, Osman is modeling the optimal level of connectivity required for full functionality. He and Ishak are testing how the system would work when different percentages of cars are connected.

 As use of these technologies becomes more widespread, the opportunities to improve road conditions through connected vehicles will increase exponentially. Ishak and Osman’s findings will be of interest to the technology companies that will develop the requisite in-vehicle transmission devices and intelligent transportation systems for v2v technologies to work. More important, their work will ground technological advances in driver safety and crash avoidance, as well as traffic operation and productivity.

For more information on LSU’s driving simulator, visit cee.lsu.edu

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Article by Liz Lebron, LSU College of Engineering communications graduate assistant. For more information, contact Mimi LaValle, College of Engineering, mlavall@lsu.edu or (225) 578-5706.

 




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