Hands-free operation no cure for driver distraction

In a report released last month by the non-profit AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, researchers at the University of Utah found that using even the least distracting voice-activated in-vehicle information systems (IVIS) generates a greater cognitive distraction than a typical cell phone conversation, and that the use of these systems continues to distract drivers for nearly 30 seconds after they have finished interacting with the system.

Drones could inspect bridges in Florida, saving divers from snakes and currents

Florida DOT is working with a team at Florida Atlantic University College of Engineering and Computer Science to develop autonomous, waterborne drone vehicles to aid in bridge inspections. Successful development of this technology could improve bridge inspection practice. Using drones to identify problem areas and conduct initial checks on the bridge means increased safety and efficiency for divers and less time in the water.

Crowdsourced data gives DOTs added insight on road conditions

The Oregon DOT recently announced a new partnership with Waze—a navigational app that collects crowdsourced traffic information from its users and employs the data in real time. Florida was among the first states to sign an agreement with Waze in May 2014, granting them access to the company’s data in exchange for information about road closures and other incidents in the state. Approximately 30 agencies around the world have partnered with the company, including cities, regional agencies and a handful of states.

Oregon DOT uses TransitMix Pro to help improve statewide network

Transit fans, amateur transportation planners, and advocates for multimodal transportation loved the original TransitMix, the easy online tool that allowed anyone to create a new transit route, alter an existing one, or change schedules in their city, at least on their computer. Now TransitMix has gone pro, and Oregon DOT is one of the first agencies to use it.

Iowa DOT provides traveler info from plow cams

As part of a 2-year-old project to modernize its approach to operations, Iowa DOT this winter has brought travelers new 511 information via dashboard-mounted iPhones on its snowplows. The DOT’s “Track a Plow” service is believed to be the first to offer such real-time photos from a state DOT’s plows. The photos are provided in addition to previously available highway views from stationary cameras.

Beyond mobility—prioritizing accessibility in urban transportation

The San Francisco Transit Accessibility Map is a new online tool showing how much of the city is accessible by transit or walking within a selected travel time. Although the map is useful as is, it also presents an enormous opportunity to develop a richly layered analysis that could be used to understand accessibility more broadly by adding data on non-work as well as work destinations. It could also highlight the need to improve accessibility for underserved areas.

There’s more to roadway emissions than what comes out of the tailpipe

While the push to reduce vehicle emissions has focused on cleaner fuels, more efficient engines, and other technologies that can reduce or eliminate tailpipe emissions, non-tailpipe emissions have remained largely under the radar. Non-tailpipe emissions include dust generated from brake pad and tire wear, as well as salt and other material kicked up from the roadway by passing vehicles. Studies have shown that along roadways, tailpipe emissions and non-exhaust sources are often responsible for roughly equal amounts of airborne particulate matter (PM), with non-exhaust sources sometimes accounting for the lion’s share.