HOW TECH TICKS
One in seven crash fatalities occurs on a motorcycle, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. That’s why Virginia Tech Transportation Institute (VTTI) researchers knew they needed to take action. Researchers partnered with the Motorcycle Safety Foundation to conduct a large-scale real-life study to better understand the crash problems associated with motorcycle riding. Using the Smart Road, a state-of-the-art, closed test-bed research facility located just off Virginia Tech’s campus, VTTI researchers are developing devices for both motorcycles and cars that will increase their safety on the road.
VTTI is testing a variety of effective, yet non-obtrusive, methods to deliver warnings to riders. Researchers create different scenarios on the Smart Road for the rider to respond to and then observe the reactions to warnings presented by various approaches, such as LED lights in helmets, vibrating gloves, or Bluetooth earpieces.
One day, vehicles might communicate with each other, alerting drivers to potential hazards. Researchers test the effectiveness of antennas and GPS systems on motorcycles to allow for communication, such as notifying drivers as motorcycles get close, warning cars and motorcycles when approaching dangerous traffic conditions, and providing other information pertinent to increasing awareness on the road.
A display screen provides a visual warning to the rider in the event of an approaching danger.
Five cameras provide researchers with a 360-degree view around the motorcycle, as well as a visual on the rider so they can more fully understand the rider's reaction in various scenarios.
Radar provides information on the location of the motorcycle for surrounding cars and motorcycles, which are also equipped with the technology.
The data-acquisition system choreographs sensors around the bike to record acceleration, how far the motorcycle is leaning at various points, how long the response time is between the warning and applying pressure to the brakes, and other kinematic measures.
On-board equipment is mounted in a compartment inside the motorcycle to protect it from the outside elements. This system includes a radio that communicates with roadside equipment during testing, as well as the ability to process possible dangers and signal warnings to the rider.
Produced by University Relations