The University of Tennessee, Knoxville

Office


From the Director

by Matt Cate, P.E.

My calendar tells me that roughly six weeks remain before summer officially gives way to fall, but early August has already brought some fall-like weather to East Tennessee. I know better than to think we've seen the last of the hot, dry weather for 2017, but this has been a welcome preview of my favorite season. It won't be long before the Volunteers are dominating the headlines, but only time will tell if those headlines bring good news or bad. You never know around here. For now I'm going to keep my orange-colored glasses on and say that the Vols are going to surprise the naysayers.

Autonomous and connected vehicles (CAV) continue to be a hot topic, not only in the world of transportation engineering and research, but also in the news media. Most of the CAV discussion consists of serious and often technical analysis of technology, regulations, investment, and public reaction. This week introduced a little humor into the narrative as a Washington, DC, television reporter investigating reports of an autonomous van on the streets of Arlington, VA, instead found that the van was driven by a human wearing a disguise which allowed the driver to go undetected by casual observers. While this scenario initially sounds quite similar to several prank videos posted on YouTube, the non-autonomous vehicle is actually part of a legitimate research project being conducted by Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech). The study is designed to measure the real-world human reaction to CAV technology. Specifically, researchers are trying to determine if additional exterior signals are necessary for pedestrians to safely and comfortably interact with these vehicles. These details paint a picture of serious and much-needed research rather than an elaborate prank, but I'm still quite amused by the thought of a researcher essentially dressed as a chair. Maybe some of my past office pranks weren't such a waste of time after all.

Finally, TTAP has at last taken the plunge into the world of social media. We hope to use our Facebook page (www.facebook. com/TNLocalRoads/) to share more news, facts, and training opportunities than RoadTalk and the TTAP website typically allow. Most importantly, we hope to have a little fun with this information (at least where it is appropriate to do so). While everyone at TTAP has contributed to this effort, most of our recent progress can be attributed to Sara McCurry, an undergraduate student in Psychology here at UT. Sara has been working at the Center for Transportation Research for about a year and we have enjoyed the fresh perspective that she brings to topics that can get a little dull at times. Please check us out if you spend time on Facebook and let us know if you have anything that you would like us to share with others.

That's all I have for now. Please do not hesitate to contact us if there is anything that TTAP can do to help you meet your community's transportation needs.


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The flagship campus of the University of Tennessee System