BLACKSBURG, Va., Oct. 25, 2013 – The Virginia Tech Transportation Institute will open its doors and the Virginia Smart Road to the public on Nov. 15, 2013, as part of a 25th anniversary celebration of its groundbreaking research.
The public event, to be held from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m., will feature information and demos of transportation research efforts into connected-vehicle technology, automated vehicle technology, naturalistic driving, and efforts to deter distracted driving actions such as texting while driving. Tours of the Virginia Department of Transportation 511 Center will be available, as well as a demo of General Motors’ luxury crossover 2013 Cadillac SRX, a car hosting a suite of advanced safety and convenience features, many of which researchers at the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute have evaluated and/or contributed in its development.
Also planned are bus tours of the closed 2.2-mile test-bed Smart Road, including its three bridges – one of which is the tallest state-maintained bridge in Virginia – and a demonstration of the high-tech road’s weather-making capabilities. Since its opening in 2000, the road has served as a testing facility for researchers from Virginia Tech, major corporations, and governmental agencies to test new vehicles or new road-safety technologies. Roughly 17,500 test hours have been logged on the road thus far.
“Our success is not only due to the nearly 400 dedicated individuals who compose our faculty, staff, and students, but to the many sponsors and partners we have been fortunate enough to collaborate with during the past quarter century,” said Thomas A. Dingus, director of the transportation institute and an endowed professor with the Virginia Tech Charles E. Via Jr. Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. “On our 25th anniversary, we not only celebrate our growth, but those who helped us get here.”
The Virginia Tech Transportation Institute started in 1988 as the Center for Transportation Research, with 15 employees and a mission to become a resource for intelligent vehicle/infrastructure research focusing on human factors within driving and burgeoning smart car technology.
Since then, the institute has built six buildings, witnessed the construction and opening of the Virginia Smart Road in co-sponsorship with the Virginia Department of Transportation, pioneered naturalistic driving studies conducted nationally and internationally, and now has close to 400 employees. It is the second-largest university-level transportation institute in the United States and currently has more than $125 million in active research awards.
Directions to the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute, 3500 Transportation Research Plaza, Blacksburg, Va., 24060. From Interstate 81 North or South: Take Exit 118B to Route 460 West and follow signs to Virginia Tech/Blacksburg. Take Exit 5A/B (Smart Road/Industrial Park Drive); follow Exit 5A to the right on exit ramp to Industrial Park Drive, turn right at end of ramp onto Industrial Park Drive, make an immediate right onto Transportation Research Drive, make first left onto Transportation Research Plaza, come up hill, turn right at top of hill, and make a left into parking lots at top of hill. From U.S. Route 460 East, take Exit 5B; on ramp, bear left onto 5B towards Blacksburg, turn left at light at end of ramp onto Main Street, turn right at first light onto Industrial Park Drive, turn right onto Transportation Research Drive, make first left onto Transportation Research Plaza, come up hill, turn right at top of hill, and make a left into parking lots at top of hill. All visitors are asked to check in at the main, multi-story building. Parking is free.
As the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute counts down to its Nov. 15 event to celebrate its 25th anniversary, the institute is looking back with a special Web page at a quarter century of growth, a new name and home, exceptional research in the widening field of transportation, the opening of the Smart Road, and its influence in making transportation smarter and safer for all people.
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Thomas Dingus, director of the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute, will be honored May 8 by the White House as a Champion of Change, a group of Americans seen as making positive change. This year's theme is Transportation Technology Solutions for the 21st century.