Highway-Rail Grade Crossing Research with NDS data and driver simulator

MTU Project Information

NuRail Project IDNURail2016-MTU-R14
Project TitleHighway-Rail Grade Crossing Research with NDS data and driver simulator
UniversityMichigan Technology University
Project ManagerPasi Lautala
Principal InvestigatorPasi Lautala
PI Contact Information
Funding Source(s) and Amounts Provided (by each agency or organization)$81,000
Total Project Cost$
Agency ID or Contract NumberDTRT12-G-UTC18 (Grant 1)
Start Date2016-10-01
End Date2018-09-15
Brief Description of Research ProjectThis is a complementary project to “Driver Behavior at Highway-Rail Grade Crossing Using NDS and Driving Simulator” project that supports FRA-HF-001, Highway-Rail Grade Crossing (Crossing) Safety and shifts the paradigm of grade crossing safety research from warning device evaluation or remote crossing monitoring, to a direct and detailed observation of the drivers. We will use the Strategic Highway Research Program Naturalistic Driving Study (NDS) data combined with analytical methods developed at Michigan Tech to investigate real life driver behavior trends during the act of traversing crossings. With a solid understanding of driver response to the existing crossing environment we will compare the results from our NDS research with the ongoing driving simulation research effort at Michigan Tech. We will develop simulator scenarios that resemble the “real world” environment found in the NDS data and use those scenarios to test driver response in the simulator. The results will allow us to compare how closely driver behavior in our simulator matches the NDS and to evaluate the use of simulators as a critical tool for driver behavior research at crossings. With a valid research tool in place, we can use the simulator environment to directly test driver response in a more comprehensive and systematic way.
Describe Implementation of Research Outcomes (or why not implemented)This project will complement the Grant received under the FRA BAA 2016 program. We will be pursuing two different tracks under this research program: 1) Work with the NDS data, and2) work with our driving simulators. NURail project will either precede or continue the work under FRA grant in each task.

1) The FRA program will prepare a data sharing agreement with Virginia Tech Transportation Institute (VTTI) and acquire a package of NDS data for analyzing how drivers behave while crossing grade crossings. The analysis work will include data reduction and preliminary analysis of topic areas to be defined in coordination with FRA. The early work will develop a compliance score to use in rating driver behavior that will be coordinated with the simulator research program to allow cross comparison of the two environments. The NURail portion of this task will commence during the second year of the project and will allow the team to go deeper analysis with the data on topics identified during FRA funded tasks.

2) Under the Simulator program, the NURail project will precede the FRA funded work and includes developing a Simulator compliance scheme and technology development and coordination with NDS data analysis – This task will coincide with NDS data analysis work and will ensure that methodologies, analytical approaches, and compliance schemes between NDS and simulator work are aligned and coordinated. The FRA funded portion of the simulator research will then continue with developing simulator scenarios based on the NDS research results, and testing driver behavior in those scenarios. The simulator work will use the compliance score system developed in conjunction with the NDS research to compare results between the environments, and use statistical analysis to evaluate how closely our simulator results match the NDS situations used as the foundation for scenario development. We will use the results to analyze the level of validation and to investigate potential causes for discrepancies. We will also provide recommendations for adjustments for future processes using similar techniques and recommendations for topics of interest for further research.
Impacts/Benefits of Implementation (actual, not anticipated)The primary area of emphasis will be safety, with potential to improve warning devices used at crossings and ultimately improve driver behavior at crossings. However, improved crossing control and driver behavior also contributes to more Livable Communities, and fewer traffic incidents at crossings will help railroads be more economically competitive.
Web Links
Project Website
Final Report