The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) recently published a summary report, Breakthroughs in Vision and Visibility for Highway Safety. The report documents the workshop, held August 13-14, 2014, at Turner-Fairbank Highway Research Center in McLean, Virginia.
Sponsored by FHWA’s Office of Safety Research and Development and the Office of Safety—with support from the Exploratory Advanced Research Program—the workshop brought together participants, including the Texas A&M Transportation Institute’s (TTI’s) Paul Carlson, senior research engineer and head of the Institute’s Traffic Operations and Roadway Safety Division. Carlson was one of five invited experts on visibility joining their colleagues from academia and the public sector to identify gaps in the current research related to transportation visibility, provide suggestions to FHWA, and determine if novel technologies or methods exist that could further the current approach to highway transportation visibility research.
“Our main goal was to get a big-picture view of previous, on-going, and needed research in the broad area of highway visibility,” explains Carlson, “then identify areas that need further study.”
During the first day, Carlson and the other four invited experts shared their observations and ideas related to highway visibility needs and opportunities. On day 2, the workshop focused on addressing two key questions: what exploratory research do we need to conduct to bring us into the future and how do we coordinate across disciplines? Five research areas were identified as needing further investigation:
- establishing updated visibility standards and guidelines in light of new technologies (e.g., virtual windshields and heads-up displays in vehicles).
- understanding how pedestrians and drivers make decisions at night, when visibility is low.
- assessing the impact of active safety and partial automation technologies (e.g., adaptive cruise control in vehicles) on highway visibility and driver risk assessment.
- bridging the gap between existing and future technologies (e.g., full vehicle automation).
- sharing research findings among public- and private-sector entities to create a clearinghouse of current, ongoing, and relevant visibility research.
“Holding these kinds of discussions and sharing the results with our colleagues who couldn’t be there can help provide a proactive direction to standards development,” says Carlson. “And that can, in the long run, improve safety on our nation’s roadways. I was honored to be asked to be a principal contributor at the workshop.”