Nine undergraduate students from various backgrounds with an interest in transportation safety have been selected for a unique, 10-week summer internship with the Texas A&M Transportation Institute (TTI) as part of the Advancing Transportation Leadership and Safety (ATLAS) and Safety through Disruption (Safe-D) University Transportation Centers (UTCs).
Led by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute (VTTI), Safe-D is one of two national safety UTCs awarded last fall by the U.S. Department of Transportation. TTI and San Diego State University are UTC partners, creating “the largest collection of transportation safety researchers in the nation.” (TTI partnered with the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute (UMTRI) on the ATLAS UTC, which started in 2014 and ends this year.)
“Safe-D research projects over the next five years will focus on those transportation disruption areas that include automation, connectivity, transportation as a service, and big data analytics,” explains TTI Senior Research Scientist Sue Chrysler, Safe-D associate director. (Laura Higgins, TTI associate research scientist, runs the summer internship program for both Safe-D and ATLAS.)
The students (representing VTTI, The University of Vermont, Texas A&M and the University of Puerto Rico at Mayagüez) have been paired with a TTI mentor and will get hands-on experience assisting with a research project. The undergraduates will be responsible for writing a technical paper and producing a professional poster about the project.
TTI Agency Director Greg Winfree welcomed the interns during an orientation session June 1, which included a thought-provoking discussion about the potential safety benefits of connected and automated technologies.
“When our vehicles no longer crash because of these advancements, cars will be built with lightweight materials. But we know that lighter vehicles are more likely to hydroplane in wet weather,” Winfree told the students. “So how are we going to overcome that safety concern? There are a lot of safety questions that arise from technology improvements that we need to think about.”
“Transportation safety is a very complicated subject,” Robert Wunderlich, director of TTI’s Center for Transportation Safety and ATLAS associate director, added. “It’s going to take different perspectives to really make improvements. The challenge is big. And we are really glad that you are here to help us with that. We hope this experience will inspire you.”
What the interns are saying:
“I’m interested in human factors and the automotive industry. This internship at TTI is my first experience in research, so it certainly could be a stepping stone. TTI is known for its cutting-edge research, so having this experience and knowledge will help with the decisions about my education.” — Rachel Sable, Senior, Industrial and Systems Engineering, Virginia Tech
“I was in a terrible car accident a few years ago and suffered a lot of physical trauma. After taking a human factors class, it really opened my eyes to transportation safety. As soon as I saw this internship opportunity, I knew it was right for me. I can already tell that there will be a lot of hands-on experience, not simply just a literature review.” — Christian Estela, Senior, Industrial Engineering, Texas A&M
“I am already passionate about transportation, and have had the opportunity to conduct some research at my university. With this internship, I am helping my mentor with a project related to the operational performance of roundabouts. I know that I want to attend graduate school, perhaps here at Texas A&M — Luis Sevillano, Senior, Transportation Engineering, University of Puerto Rico at Mayagüez