Connected and Automated Research

Engineering Systems Group

Researchers in UMTRI’s engineering systems group have been working in the area of active safety and automated control technologies for more than 25 years.  Using methods from modeling and simulation in the lab to big data from the field, and from large field studies using instrumented fleets of cars, trucks, buses and bicycles to algorithm development for prototypes, this group investigates safety and mobility effects of various levels of automated and connected technologies as well as for traffic control using existing and future forms of roadway infrastructure.

Human Factors Group

How the driver will interact with CAVs and driving systems is critical to a safe and successful deployment.  Researchers at UMTRI are developing and testing a host of experimental protocols designed to reveal the potential for inattentive driving, issues of trust, comprehension of how the systems operate, acceptance to how AVs maneuver, as well as developing efficient instructional methods to improve drivers’ interaction with CAVs.  Researchers also are looking at how CAVs can address some of the most critical issues in transportation safety including the safety of vulnerable road users like pedestrians and bicyclists, as well as how ride sharing might improve accessibility and overall quality of life.  

Collaboration with industry is critical to the successful deployment of CAVs. Researchers at UMTRI are working directly with industry to evaluate the design and usability of vehicle controls, displays and other CAV information systems, and to write design guidelines for future systems.  They also develop and test driver interfaces for SAE Level 2 and 3 vehicles.  An important focus is the development of methods that could predict the complexity of AV interface systems before they are built and implemented in order to ensure users will understand them. 

Biosciences Group 

Even with advancements in driver-assistance systems, crashes will still be common in the coming decades. Research in the Biosciences group has shown that even occupants of an automated vehicle that cannot cause a crash will still need advanced crash protection systems due to the risks of being hit by other vehicles. Fortunately, crash protection for vehicle occupants continues to improve, thanks to research focusing on individual differences. UMTRI’s experts in the Biosciences Group use physical testing and computational modeling to understand how differences in body shape, age, and the posture within a vehicle affect crash protection so that everyone can be protected well. People with disabilities, seniors, and children all will benefit from this continued focus on crash protection. Many concepts for future automated vehicles have included use cases that are currently unusual, such as rear-facing seats or highly reclined seats for sleeping. Biosciences researchers are conducting a range of research to understand how occupants in these alternative scenarios can be well protected when crashes occur.  This group also investigates how likely occupants of AVs are likely to become motion sick, particularly when they are engaged in tasks like read or responding to email.

Behavioral Sciences Group

Despite the rapid proliferation of AVs onto our roadways, driver decision making and behavior will continue to play a critical role in the success and safety of AVs.  One important focus of the UMTRI Behavioral Sciences Group is conducting research that will help us better understand how drivers, particularly vulnerable drivers such as older adults and teens, learn about and use AV technologies and systems. In addition, researchers in the BSG are involved in research to examine factors associated with trust in AVs and how trust influences the acceptance and use of vehicle automation. 


How many miles of travel are needed for an AV manufacturer to thoroughly demonstrate that their vehicle or AV system is at least as safe as a traditional vehicle?  UMTRI experts have access to petabytes of efficient and high-quality naturalistic data sets, crash data for the U.S. and several states, as well as the largest set of connected vehicle data in the world.  This data will better inform manufacturers, and policy makers in their pursuit of a national connected vehicle network and AV deployment.  This group is also engaged in the design and optimization of shared mobility systems.


UMTRI researchers utilize state-of-the-art laboratories and other research facilities across campus. These facilities enable them to evaluate all forms of AV systems under highly-controlled, safe, experimental conditions, and include instrumented vehicles, injury biomechanical facilities, dynamic sled labs, and a vehicle lighting lab to name a few. 

Additionally, UMTRI researchers utilize both on and off-road research facilities and large-scale deployments in their CAV research:

  • Ann Arbor Connected Environment (AACE) – over 2,600 vehicles on the road today; 27 square miles of roadway; with 67 associated infrastructure locations equipped in order to collect real-time data on traffic flow and vehicle usage.
  • Mcity – 32-acre site with more than 16 acres of roads and traffic infrastructure; a full-scale outdoor laboratory that simulates the broad range of complexities vehicles encounter in urban and suburban environments, and connected infrastructure that both mirrors that on local roads but also researches next generation communication technologies.
  • Michigan Traffic Laboratory – state-of-the-art traffic management system focusing on traffic network monitoring of local roadways, modeling and control, and featuring augmented reality testing technology.

Selected Publications