TTI Encourages Young Women to Pursue STEM Careers
On Saturday, Feb. 25, more than 6,000 girls ranging from kindergarten to eighth grade attended “Girl Day 2017” hosted by the Women in Engineering Program, part of The University of Texas at Austin’s Cockrell School of Engineering. TTI Research Scientist Steven Polunsky volunteered at the event and interacted with numerous young women interested in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) careers.
“When we go to these events, we are looking to kindle that fire of curiosity in someone,” explains Polunsky. “I want them to see a crash test, touch a piece of road bed, examine highway sign letters under a microscope, and think ‘that’s not so hard. I can do that. I can help people be safe.’ I’m proud that TTI helps make the opportunity possible.”
TxDOT, TTI Sign MOU to Test Connected and Automated Vehicle Technologies
TTI and the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) recently co-signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) spelling out the guidelines to allow TTI to test lab-proven technologies in real-world environments.
“We are rapidly moving into a new world of transportation that will include cars communicating with other cars and cars that drive themselves,” TxDOT Executive Director James Bass says. “Since the transportation industry is on the leading edge of this transformation, testing is vital in real driving environments. We’re excited to be part of that along with the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles and the Texas Department of Public Safety to make sure those technologies are tested in the safest possible ways.”
Through this MOU, TTI can propose testing of its own technology applications or technologies from industry and other universities. TTI will develop a plan with TxDOT that details the technology to be tested, how it performed in previous laboratory and controlled tests, and where and for how long it will be tested. The plan will also describe how the tests can be safely demonstrated and piloted on Texas highways.
“Those technologies range from detection of wrong-way drivers to new pavement markings and signs that can be read by automated vehicles,” says TTI Assistant Agency Director Christopher Poe, the Institute’s CV/AV transportation strategy lead. “Working with TxDOT, the first real-world technology testing plans under this agreement could begin within months.”
A&M System Board of Regents Recognizes Epps
Jon Epps, TTI executive associate director and senior research fellow, received the Regents Fellow Service Award from The Texas A&M University System Board of Regents during an awards dinner Feb. 9. Established in 1998, the Regents Fellow Service Award recognizes A&M System agency researchers who make lasting contributions to Texas and the nation.
A pioneer in asphalt-pavement recycling and soil-stabilization methodology, Epps’ 45-year career in the transportation industry includes research in pavement-management systems and pavement economics. He leads TTI’s Materials, Pavements and Constructed Facilities Division and the Roadside Safety and Physical Security Division, as well as oversees the Institute’s research in construction engineering, highway structures, flexible pavements, roadside safety and physical security devices, structural testing, and other areas.
“Being named a Regents Fellow is certainly a highlight of my career,” Epps says. “I’ve been extremely fortunate to work alongside great people, who have been vital to the overall success of these programs and efforts.”
TTI Briefs Texas Legislators on Autonomous Vehicles, Safety Issues, Research Priorities
On Dec. 7, 2016, Ginger Goodin, director of TTI’s Transportation Policy Research Center (PRC), briefed the Texas House Transportation Committee on autonomous vehicles in the context of policy and regulation. Robert Wunderlich, director of TTI’s Center for Transportation Safety, provided information on significant trends in roadway safety. And on March 2, 2017, Goodin and TTI Agency Director Greg Winfree briefed members of the Texas House Committee on Transportation regarding TTI’s current research priorities.
Goodin’s winter testimony was drawn from published and ongoing research and researchers’ observations, as well as policy guidance produced in September 2016 by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). One of NHTSA’s key objectives, Goodin told the committee, is to ensure a consistent national framework for state-level regulation of highly automated vehicles for both testing and operation.
Wunderlich’s testimony drew from TTI research conducted to assist in updating the Texas Strategic Highway Plan, first produced 10 years ago. In addition to satisfying federal requirements, the plan identifies key safety needs and serves as a guide for investment decisions designed to reduce the frequency of deaths and injuries on Texas roadways.
In his testimony in March, Winfree noted that TTI’s research program has “continued to grow, maintaining its distinction as the largest university-based research agency of its kind in the United States,” despite times of uncertain federal funding and many competing interests. Goodin highlighted the PRC’s research in areas of finance, freight, congestion and transportation network companies — all of which are issues central to policy discussions in the current legislative session.
TTI Assists in Unmanned Aerial Systems Project
TTI, along with the Lone Star UAS Center of Excellence and Innovation (LSUASC) at Texas A&M University–Corpus Christi, will provide support to a two-year project led by The University of Texas at Arlington on how unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) can be used to inspect highways and railroads remotely. TxDOT is sponsoring the project. LSUASC and TTI will develop procedural guidelines and best practices for the use of UAVs for this purpose.
“The use of UAVs in the United States is growing fast, and I look forward to working with the project team to see how UAVs may be best utilized to study our transportation infrastructure,” says TTI Research Scientist Jeff Borowiec.
Texas Designated as Automated Vehicles Proving Ground
The U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) has designated Texas as a national Automated Vehicle (AV) Proving Ground for the testing of connected and automated vehicle technologies to solve community challenges. The Texas AV Proving Grounds Partnership includes TTI, the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT), The University of Texas at Austin’s Center for Transportation Research, the Southwest Research Institute, and 32 municipal and regional partners.
“With five of the nation’s 15 fastest-growing cities in Texas and our population expected to potentially double by the year 2050, Texas must be a leader in new technology that addresses transportation challenges,” says TxDOT Deputy Executive Director Marc Williams. “This partnership puts Texas at the forefront of automated vehicle technologies that likely will shape the future of transportation around the world.”
Texas offers a full and varied range of testing environments, from high-speed barrier-separated managed lanes to low-speed urban environments such as university campuses, medical districts, transit bus corridors and border crossings. Selected from an applicant pool of more than 60, the Texas AV Proving Grounds Partnership joins nine other designees in a community of practice that will be instrumental in helping USDOT provide critical insights into optimal big data usage and further develop guidelines for developing automated vehicle technologies.