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Virginia Tech News / Articles / 2015 / 06 

Virginia Tech teams with Federal Highway Administration to bring new road safety technology to United States

June 30, 2015

Pavement friction machine
From left to right: Paul Fussell of WDM Limited; Edgar de León Izeppi of the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute; James Sherwood, Katherine Petros, and Andy Mergenmeier, all of the Federal Highway Administration; and Richard dal Lago of W.D.M. Limited, standing in front of the Sideway-force Coefficient Routine Investigation Machine (SCRIM).

In a project funded by the Federal Highway Administration, the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute has welcomed the first Sideway-force Coefficient Routine Investigation Machine, or SCRIM for short, to the United States.

The project objective is to assist states in the development of Pavement Friction Management Programs and demonstrate continuous friction and macro-texture measurement equipment.

Pavement friction can sometimes be the difference between life and death on roadways. The higher the friction, the better grip a vehicle’s tires will have with the road. Higher friction can help a vehicle stop or maneuver its way out of a crash.

The project is led by Gerardo Flintsch, director of the institute’s Center for Sustainable Transportation Infrastructure and a professor with Virginia Tech’s Charles E. Via, Jr. Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. “The continuous friction measurement equipment has the potential to pinpoint pavement sections where the probability of crashes is greater,” said Flintsch.

The instrumentation is housed in a Volvo VHD 430 model truck that will drive thousands of miles through Florida, Texas, Indiana, and Washington, collecting data. The multi-ton truck will continuously measure friction, cross-slope, macro-texture, grade, temperature, and curvature while driving at up to 50 mph. These various measurements will be cross-referenced with crash data to identify potentially high-risk friction areas that can be treated.

“This system is unique because with one data collection pass on the road, we will collect data that allows us to segment the road network into friction demand categories,” said Andrew Mergenmeier, senior pavement and materials engineer for the Federal Highway Administration. “For example, in areas where the potential for conflict is greater, such as tight horizontal curves, this data can inform the need for a countermeasure.”

Prior to the data collection phase which begins this summer, the truck already had a transcontinental journey. It was built at Volvo’s New River Valley Plant in Dublin, Virginia, shipped to the United Kingdom, where the instrumentation was installed and certified by the Transport Research Laboratory.  

“We look forward to being pioneers in bringing this technology to the United States and furthering the efforts to save lives,” said Flintsch.

Written by Cecilia Elpi of the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute

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