To help reduce the dangers of drivers disregarding or not noticing traffic warning and control devices as they approach and enter a work zone, researchers from the University of Minnesota have developed the Intelligent Drum Line (IDL) system prototype. The portable, dynamic system provides visual and auditory warnings to drivers who may have ignored or missed previous warning devices and pose a danger to the work-zone crew. The project was led by John Hourdos, director of the U of M’s Minnesota Traffic Observatory, and sponsored by the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT). The IDL system consists of two instrumented work-zone drums that detect vehicles traveling at unsafe speeds as they approach the work zone. Each drum includes a visual and auditory warning system: emergency flasher units mounted on the outside of the drum and a powerful air horn mounted inside that project toward the roadway.
The drums are positioned just outside of the shoulder line 90 - 120m (300 - 400 ft) apart. The first drum measures the speed and location of approaching vehicles. If the speed is higher than the safe threshold, the system activates the visual warning in both drums. When the vehicle is about one second away from the first drum, the auditory warning is activated. As soon as the vehicle passes, the auditory warning is stopped and the visual warning is deactivated. The auditory warning process is then repeated for the second drum. The prototype system was tested in three locations in Minnesota, including the MnROAD research facility near Albertville. Tests included vehicles ranging from passenger vehicles to a heavy three-ton truck. Results indicated that the audible and visual warnings successfully attracted the attention of drivers. However, because drivers were aware of the system beforehand, further testing under real conditions is needed to verify the system’s success.
Future development will include streamlining the system and its construction so it will pass a Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) crashworthiness test, which would allow the system to be tested in actual roadway work zones. The researchers also recommended a follow-up human factors study that could evaluate the positive and possibly negative effects of the system when used in practice, particularly the loud auditory warning that could surprise drivers unaware of the system.
18 October 2013
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