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IVBSS Program: By the numbers

December 16, 2009

Ten trucks. Twenty drivers. Sixteen thousand, seven hundred hours of driving. For researchers involved in UMTRI's Integrated Vehicle-Based Safety Systems (IVBSS) program, it's time to crunch the numbers.

The "numbers" represent data generated during the last ten months as part of a four-year research program to develop and test an integrated crash-warning system. The system is made up of a suite of advanced technologies that warn drivers when they are about to leave the roadway, are in danger of colliding with another vehicle while attempting a lane change, or are at risk of colliding with the vehicle in front of them.

As part of the study, sixteen passenger cars and ten commercial trucks were equipped with the state-of-the-art system. In mid-December, UMTRI completed field tests of the system in the heavy truck fleet. While the test vehicles were driven, data acquisition systems recorded driver actions and responses to the integrated warning system.

Some fundamental data has already emerged. To date, truck drivers in the study traveled 646,946 miles, made 44,747 trips, and generated 16,741 hours of data over a ten-month test period. The study also produced a wealth of basic data on the behavior of commercial truck drivers. Over the next few months, the IVBSS team, led by UMTRI associate research scientist Jim Sayer, will be analyzing the data generated.

"The emphasis is first and foremost on assessing the potential safety benefits provided by the integrated warning system," Sayer said. "But so much more information regarding driver behavior waits to be discovered. Drowsy drivers, distracted drivers--we see it all. Unfortunately, we will only scratch the surface in terms of maximizing the utility of the data we've collected."

composite photo of driver texting while driving

[Pictured above: Video images taken during the IVBSS study show a passenger car driver texting while driving. Study data shows that the driver received a warning from the integrated system indicating risk of colliding with the vehicle ahead.]

To read the team's complete plan for data analysis, see IVBSS Heavy Truck Platform Field Operational Test Data Analysis Plan on the IVBSS website.

Field-testing of the integrated system on heavy trucks is just one part of the larger $32.3 million IVBSS program. IVBSS is a cooperative agreement with the U.S. Department of Transportation, UMTRI and partners Visteon Corp., Eaton Corp., Honda R&D Americas Inc., International Truck and Engine, TK Holdings, Battelle, Con-way Freight, and the Michigan Department of Transportation.

While data analysis begins for the commercial truck fleet, Sayer and colleagues continue to collect data from a fleet of sixteen passenger cars that are similarly being field tested with integrated collision warning systems. To date, 81 of the 108 drivers in the study have received cars. Participants drive the test vehicles in place of their own passenger vehicles for a period of six weeks.

The light-vehicle field test will continue through April 2010. Meanwhile, the team has already amassed data on more than 140,000 miles and 4,000 hours of driving, with travel covering 12 states, by a random selection of licensed drivers.

While it's challenging to analyze a data set of this size--containing billions of records and over 3.5 terabytes of data--UMTRI research scientist David LeBlanc says that the biggest challenge is accounting for the individual variability of drivers.

"No two people drive quite the same way," said LeBlanc. "For example, early results from the light-vehicle field test show that drivers can elicit as many as twenty collision warnings per 100 miles of driving, or as few as one per 100 miles.

For IVBSS researchers, analyzing this diversity of data is what makes the study both interesting and challenging.

The University of Michigan recently produced a video about the IVBSS project, which aired on the Big Ten Network. To watch the video, see Out of the Blue Episode 5 - UMTRI