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Virginia Tech News / Articles / 2014 / 08 

Transportation institute to host naturalistic driving research symposium with eye toward future of road safety

August 19, 2014

Ann Branch and Ken Leonard
Ann Branch and Ken Leonard

The Virginia Tech Transportation Institute is close to selling out its upcoming Fourth International Symposium on Naturalistic Driving Research, which will focus on driver safety issues such as such as novice drivers, distraction, and professional driver health.

To be held at the Inn at Virginia Tech’s Holtzman Alumni Center, the Aug. 25-28 event features two days of workshops, speakers, and discussions hosted by the institute’s National Surface Transportation Safety Center for Excellence.

The role of infrastructure relative to driver safety will also be discussed, as will innovative ways researchers can use and extract information from naturalistic driving databases.

The symposium will provide attendees with an overview of international naturalistic driving studies and the opportunity to interact with panelists in their respective countries and next-generation uses of the technology. Participants will receive hands-on experience with naturalistic driving studies data, particularly the institute’s Second Strategic Highway Research Program Naturalistic Driving Study database. 

The largest naturalistic driving study ever under taken, the study includes more than 35 million miles of data and more than 3,000 participants.

Pioneered by the institute, naturalistic driving involves instrumenting volunteer subjects’ vehicles with cameras and other technology developed by the institute that can record video inside and outside the vehicle and capture such vehicle data as speed, use of brakes, acceleration, and GPS location. These data can provide valuable insight into causes of crashes and near-crashes, how motorists interact with in-vehicle technology, and issues of distraction, among other uses. 

The studies led by the institute have strongly impacted scores of government and industry policies, from driver distraction text bans to hours-of-service operations for heavy-vehicle drivers. Such studies also are used as academic researchers and car manufacturers move toward automated cars, said Myra Blanco, who heads the institute’s new Center for Automated Vehicle Systems.

Keynote speakers for the symposium are Ken Leonard, director of the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Intelligent Transportation Systems Joint Program Office, and Ann Branch, director of the Second Strategic Highway Research Program of the Transportation Research Board, part of the National Academy of Sciences. 

Also speaking will be Tom Dingus, director of the institute and an endowed professor of civil and environmental engineering at Virginia Tech.

“This symposium gives transportation researchers and specialists from across the globe the opportunity to discuss where we are headed with the use of naturalistic driving data and how we can best collaborate to ensure we are collectively meeting our goal of saving lives in the transportation community,” said Dingus.

“This institute houses close to 90 percent of naturalistic driving data in the world, and we are dedicated to sharing our knowledge base with others who are equally interested in analyzing the information available and creating new studies that help solve some of the greatest transportation challenges of today and tomorrow.”

Symposium attendees are expected from across the United States, Canada, Australia, Europe, and Asia.

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