Researchers from the Center for Truck and Bus Safety and the Hardware Engineering Lab at the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute (VTTI) traveled to Washington Aug. 19 to demonstrate the technology and methods used in their Drowsy Driver Warning System Field Operational Test as well as other transportation research.

The researchers were invited to lead a demonstration after a press conference held by the Federal Motor Carriers Safety Administration (FMSCA), where administrators announced the new hours-of-service rules for the trucking industry. VTTI research was one of the many sources used by the FMCSA team to make decisions regarding the rule. Representatives from CNN, The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, ABC, NBC, and several trade publications were present.

Norman Mineta, U.S. Secretary of Transportation, received a private tour of an instrumented truck and spoke with Richard Hanowski, director of the Center for Truck and Bus Safety at VTTI, about research being conducted at the institute.

The instrumented truck served as a demonstration of a relatively new development in transportation research: naturalistic driving studies. Research institutions are using advanced data collection systems integrated with vehicle networks to collect driving, multiple video channels, and other information about the vehicle’s status (for example, whether the windshield wipers are on or off).

VTTI’s data acquisition system represents more than 15 years of development and improvement and can be specialized for many different makes and models of light vehicles and heavy trucks. These systems have been in use for several studies at VTTI, including the highly anticipated 100-Car Naturalistic Driving Study completed by VTTI this year.

The Drowsy Driver Warning System Field Operational Test, the most recent study at VTTI to include instrumented trucks, involved equipping 46 trucks with data acquisition system s to test the efficiency and effectiveness of a warning system that would alert drivers if they are showing signs of being too drowsy for driving. This study, sponsored by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Federal Motor Carriers Safety Administration, and the Intelligent Transportation Systems Joint Program Office, will not only provide information about the Drowsy Driver Warning System itself, but valuable data regarding truck-driver behaviors in general.

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