The University of Tennessee, Knoxville


From the Director

by Matt Cate, P.E.

As I write this column I am in Madison, Wisconsin, to attend the 2016 LTAP/TTAP Conference. I always look forward to this gathering as an opportunity to learn more about what our fellow LTAP and TTAP centers have been up to over the past year. We've come home with a lot of good ideas from these meetings, and this year shouldn't disappoint. Many of the sessions focus on tips and tricks to make an LTAP center function smoothly behind the scenes, but others feature trends and technology that impact our customers (and that's you). Highlights include a train-the-trainer session on an update to the popular Road Safety 365 workshop, a technical session on the use of unmanned aerial vehicles, safety research with local application and interest, and tips for developing effective interactive training exercises.

After a mild spring, it seems that we are now stuck in a pattern of high temperatures and severe weather. The heat obviously impacts the men and women responsible for building and maintaining Tennessee's roadways. Severe weather, whether in the form of heavy rain, hail, high winds, or even tornadoes, impacts the entire transportation system. Rain reduces visibility, increases stopping distances, and can even cause loss of vehicle control through hydroplaning. High winds and tornadoes knock down trees, damage buildings, and disrupt power. In the short term these issues may block roadways or disrupt signal control at busy intersections. Days after Knoxville's most recent storm I still saw traffic signal heads twisted by the winds. Worst of all, these storms require the same roadway workers who have been laboring all day in the heat to work overtime to clean up the mess and restore order as quickly as possible. I don't know about you, but I am ready for fall's arrival.

Finally, we recently learned that the U.S. recorded its first traffic fatality associated with a vehicle in autonomous or semiautonomous operation. In this incident, a Tesla Model S using the company's Autopilot feature struck a large truck turning across the car's path on a divided highway. There is early speculation that the truck's light color against an overcast sky offered insufficient contrast for the vehicle's video processors. There are also reports that the human driver of the vehicle may have been distracted when the crash occurred. This incident will be investigated by both the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board. This event only reinforces my belief that the transportation network (and our jobs) will become increasingly complex in the future.

That's all for now. Stay safe out there regardless of the weather conditions, and please let us know if there is anything that TTAP can do to make your job easier.


The University of Tennessee, Knoxville. Big Orange. Big Ideas.

Knoxville, Tennessee 37996 | 865-974-1000
The flagship campus of the University of Tennessee System