Virtual Reality and Road Safety Education

Virtual Reality (VR)—it’s all fun and games until someone figures out how to use it for the benefit of safety education. And it appears that time is upon us. While still in its infancy, the mainstay of VR has been entertainment, giving users next-level experiences of visual media like video games and films. But since it’s conception (and likely well before it), developers and members of various disciplines have recognized VR for it’s potential educational applications. Since transportation is an industry impacting nearly all members of our society on a daily-basis, it’s the perfect candidate for improvement by way of VR. Recently, two new safety programs have been created to educate pedestrians and drivers alike.

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With the school year underway crosswalks are once again flooded with young children. In Canada, child pedestrian injuries are a leading cause of injury-related death. To combat these unfortunate statistics, researchers at the University of Guelph are implementing a VR program that teaches students when and how to cross streets safely in real-life scenarios. By wearing the VR goggles, children are fully immersed in pedestrian environments and given the chance to test their reaction time and general attention. A digital character acts as the child’s coach, offering positive reinforcements and directions for improvements. This immersive, tailored approach appears to be working. In a study of 130 children aged 7-10, those trained with the VR program made 75 to 98 percent few road safety errors than their counterparts.

Truckers in England have also received their own VR training program. Highway England has created a VR smartphone app that gives users a simulated view from a truck cab traveling down a highway. This application was initially designed for the use of commercial truckers, but Highway England states that it’s equally beneficial to private drivers who will no doubt encounter heavy goods vehicles (HGV) on the road. A few of the scenarios included in the application are: overtaking, tailgating, joining from a ramp lane, and more. The main goal of the application is to develop awareness for blind spots on trucks, which are naturally much larger than those of an average four-wheel vehicle.

We’re still in the early phases of VR technology, but if these programs are any indication, the future of virtual education tools is looking bright. One could imagine VR technology finding its way into mainstream driver’s education at some point in the near future. If it means safer roads, let the games begin.

#vr #virtualreality #gaming #tech #cars

Hurricane Florence and the Way Back Home

On Tuesday September 11, three days before Hurricane Florence was predicted to hit the southeast coastline, residents began stocking up on supplies, preparing their homes, and heading inland. While the storm was re-categorized in severity several times, local ordinances continued to warn residents of the impending damage and urged them to get out while they could. This proved wise. The intense winds and historic levels of rainfall brought by Florence leveled homes and has left entire neighborhoods and swaths of major roadways like Interstate 40 completely submerged in flood water.

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To expedite the evacuation, eastbound lanes on Interstate 26 and southbound Interstate 77 were reversed, doubling the amount of cars able to travel towards safety at one time. The vigilance of our Traffic Operators in tracking weather reports, press conferences, and updates from southern departments of transportation, helped us relay this closure information to residents in timely fashion. These major shutdowns, along with literally hundreds of other smaller road closures, remain high priority for operators across all of our offices at all times of day and night. As could be expected, the roads leading back to the coast aren’t likely to all open up at once so we remain diligent in following and reporting the re-opening of all routes.

The North Carolina Department of Transportation is encouraging drivers to use real time travel-based apps over traditional GPS, since they are more likely to have the most recent routing updates. The TrafficCarma app will indeed have all the latest travel data along with user comments on traffic, accidents, and closures. We’re committed to providing the most up to date travel information for residents eager to return home. Our thoughts are with everyone affected by Florence and we wish you safe travels.   

 

#travel #hurricaneflorence #northcarolina #weather

Innovation Roundup: Size, Sound, and Sight

While they seem to take up the lion’s share of space in the spotlight, autonomous vehicles and Tesla gossip don’t wholly define the broad, bright future of the automotive industry. There are countless technologies in production aimed at redefining how we interact with our cars and how our cars interact us and the world around them. But we’ll keep this brief.

The following are three recent innovations that embody the three major areas of automotive innovation: safety, efficiency, and personalization.

The Shrinking Car

Israeli engineers are developing what they call the “City Transformer”. It’s electric and comes equipped with all the standard features found in your current car. But with the tap of a button, it shrinks down to fit in a motorcycle-sized parking spot. Four City Transformers could fit into a standard parking spot.

Separated Sound Zone

A series of speakers throughout the car target specific seats while neutralizing sound coming from all other speakers will allow the driver and passengers to enjoy their respective entertainment unobtrusively.

Jaguar’s Autonomous Pod with Eyes

To address the distrust much of the public expresses towards autonomous vehicles, Jaguar poses a clever, albeit kind of spooky, addition to driverless vehicles. Eyes affixed to the front of a vehicle are designed to provide a sense of predictability by showing pedestrians that it is indeed aware of their presence.

 

 

For all the latest industry news

#innovation #tech #travel #cars

Mid Year Update

Chances are, if you read or hear local traffic information while in your car, it comes from TrafficCast International.  TrafficCast – that’s us! – is a North American leader in travel-time forecasting and traffic information, developing technology, applications and content based on advanced digital traffic information, and we have the data to prove we’re out in front.  

As of mid-year 2018, you’ll find 80% of top U.S auto OEMs (Original Equipment Manufacturers) displaying TrafficCast data. And 1.5 Billion is the number of data points the information TrafficCast serves up every day. Pair that with incident data from 250+ sources and anonymous device data from the Company’s 12,000+ IoT device deployments, and it means that updated travel information from various sources are delivered from TrafficCast every 60 seconds.

BlueTOAD Spectra and BlueArgus are surging in nationwide placement and use as well. BlueTOAD is the most advanced traffic-monitoring system on the market, directly measuring travel times using cost-effective, non-intrusive roadside technology. BlueTOAD Spectra detects anonymous Bluetooth signals broadcast from mobile devices to determine accurate travel times and speeds Presently, BlueTOAD technology, delivering analytics to assist traffic management and predict future traffic patterns on roads and at events, is at work throughout the US. coast to coast, some 4,400 devices have been installed by federal, state and municipal transportation and engineering departments and large event planners. And with new offices opening to serve BlueTOAD clients regionally, TrafficCast expects the growth seen at mid-2018 to continue.  

#traffic #driving #travel #BlueTOAD #roadsafety #solutions #TrafficCast

Ground Penetrating Radar: Keeping Autonomous Cars on Track No Matter the Weather

The same technology that helps the military detect landmines could soon help autonomous vehicles (AVs) stay in their lane during poor driving conditions. Currently AVs rely on radar, LiDar sensors, and cameras to see their surroundings. But when visibility is low due to inclement weather, time of day, or if road markings are unclear, these systems run into trouble. This is where ground-penetrating radar (GPR) steps in.

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Created by researchers at MIT and first put to use by US Armed Forces in Afghanistan in 2013, GPR produces a map of what lies beneath a road by way of electromagnetic pulses. These pulses reach 10 feet into the Earth and reflect off dirt, rocks, pipes, etc. to produce a map of the underground road composition. Comparing this imagery to surrounding subterranean geology tells a vehicle where the road is, even if it can’t be seen by a driver. This mapping has been shown to be accurate within a few centimeters even at highway speeds at night during a snowstorm.

The company leading the development of GPR for the driverless world is a startup called WaveSense. Their slogan “When other sensors go blind, WaveSense keeps you safe.” denotes their aim to fill the gap left by current optical sensor systems. So it’s not to say that LiDar, radar, and camera systems won’t have their place in the future of autonomy, just that GPR will help AVs paint a fuller picture of the world around (and beneath) them.

The automotive industry is on the edge of profound transformations and the reliability of driverless navigation remains the main hurdle left to clear for AVs to meet performance standards and gain public trust. No doubt GPR will be a major factor in making the leap.

Below is a video demonstrating GPR:

 

Employee Spotlight: Matthew Harris

Matt joined our team of dedicated traffic operators back in 2015. When he got his start, our East Coast operations were headquartered in a tiny building in the suburbs of Newtown Square, Pennsylvania. Today they work out of an expansive coworking office called The Mill in downtown Wilmington, Delaware.
“It’s crazy to see how much the company has evolved in just a few years of me being here. And not just in terms of clients and coverage, but our team and workspace too. Seeing as how much the sophistication and impact of our work has grown, it’s cool to see that reflected in our environment. I really like our new space here in Delaware.”
Matt keeps watch over our southern markets–Virginia, Atlanta, Georgia, Florida, and the Carolinas. After spending most of his time here at TrafficCast watching these markets, he has gained a rich understanding of the region’s roadways and traffic patterns.
But even with his high level of intuition and know-how, Matt says he couldn’t do it alone. The team around him is a huge factor in his efficacy (as it is with all our operators). In fact, when asked what he enjoyed most about his day-to-day here there was little hesitation.
“Our team. I like the work, of course. It’s engaging and I know it’s helping people everyday. But I really enjoy the team I work with. We have a good time, we collaborate well and we’re always helping each other produce the most accurate info. Teamwork is crucial in this.”
When he’s not at work, Matt likes to spend his time making music, going out with friends, or just relaxing at home with his girlfriend, Sam, and their two cats, Dexter and Yuna.
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Connected Cars: What Can We Expect?

The term “connected cars” is one you’ll often hear alongside the latest advancements in the auto industry–like driverless cars. But the concept isn’t actually all that new. The first iteration of a connected car hit the market back in 1996 with the introduction of OnStar. Cell phones of the time weren’t as reliable or prevalent as they are today, so OnStar gave drivers in a pinch a way to communicate with a call center with reliability. Two decades later and cell phones are far away from what they used to be–and so are connected cars. Today, having your vehicle connected to bluetooth and GPS has become standard. In an age of rapid advancement, we quickly become accustomed, even jaded, to the kind of tech that would raise eyebrows just a few years ago. But if we zoom our perspective out a bit, the headway made in just 20 years is nothing short of astounding. And the technologies to define the next phase of connected cars promise to be even more impressive and impactful.

Here are a few of the most talked about technologies currently in development:

Vehicle-to-Vehicle

Vehicles that communicate with one another will be able to share data of travel speeds, construction, road hazards, and more. Plus, getting “cut-off” by other drivers will be a thing of the past since you’d know what they to you plan to do before they do it. This ought to ease driver tension while also reducing congestion and accidents by preventing unpredictable and frustrating stop-and-go situations.

Vehicle-to-Infrastructure

Many experts believe that all new vehicles will be equipped with vehicle-to-infrastructure capability as early as 2023. This would allow your car to communicate with things like traffic signals, parking meters, and gas pumps to name a few. You could find parking quickly and conduct transactions without leaving your car. You’d also kiss waiting at red lights with no other cars in sight goodbye.

Vehicle-to-Brain

You read that right. While this certainly won’t be of interest to some drivers, vehicle-to-brain technology will have practical applications. Communication will be delivered by way of a driver-worn headset fitted with electrodes. This would allow your vehicle to alert you of abrupt lane changes or sound off an alert when it detects you getting drowsy.