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Impact at a Glance

Tom Dingus

Naturalistic Driving Studies

  • VTTI pioneered the use of naturalistic driving studies, a research method that involves equipping volunteer participants’ vehicles with unobtrusive cameras and instrumentation to record real-world driver behavior and performance. The resulting data have helped VTTI researchers, federal and state agencies, auto manufacturers, and suppliers answer important questions about such driver risks as distraction, fatigue, inattention, and impairment. The institute houses nearly 90% of continuous naturalistic driving data in the world and won a National Academy of Sciences-funded contract to make data from the largest naturalistic driving study ever conducted (the Second Strategic Highway Research Program Naturalistic Driving Study [SHRP 2 NDS]) available to researchers across the automotive and transportation industries.
  • More than a decade ago, VTTI led the 100-Car Naturalistic Driving Study, which was the first large-scale naturalistic driving study ever conducted. Results from the 100-Car Study continue to be analyzed and inform transportation research and policies. Study results have been cited almost 3,000 times in technical literature.
  • VTTI and partners worked with a team of in-house data reductionists to analyze data from the SHRP 2 NDS. The SHRP 2 NDS is the largest study of its kind and marks the largest contract awarded by the National Academy of Sciences (NAS). The study data comprise more than 2 petabytes of continuous naturalistic driving data collected from more than 3,300 instrumented vehicles and more than 3,500 participants across six U.S. locations.
  • Based on its ability to successfully conduct large-scale naturalistic driving studies, VTTI is poised to instrument 1,000 advanced vehicles that have both advanced safety systems and multi-function automation in three states, for a period of one year. These data will allow subsequent studies that generate new insights into critically important issues related to automated driving systems.
  • VTTI naturalistic driving studies have shown that looking away from the forward roadway just prior to the occurrence of an unexpected event is responsible for up to 90% of crash and near-crash events.
  • The national success of VTTI has generated research efforts on a global scale; VTTI is currently leading naturalistic driving studies in China, Canada, and Australia.
  • The VTTI Driver Distraction in Commercial Vehicle Operations study found that texting while driving raises a heavy-truck driver’s risk of a safety-critical event by 23 times. This statistic has been touted nationally, from the New York Times to the Ad Council to AT&T.
  • The "23 times" message helped lead the U.S. Department of Transportation (U.S. DOT) to issue a call to end distracted driving. Currently, 48 states and the District of Columbia have banned text messaging for all drivers..
  • VTTI teen driving studies have shown that teens are four times more likely to be involved in a crash or near-crash while distracted compared to their adult counterparts. Teen fatalities are three times greater than adult fatalities, making this an important discovery of the prominence of a major causal factor for younger drivers.
  • VTTI light-vehicle naturalistic driving studies have shown that driver drowsiness is a significantly greater factor in crashes and near-crashes than was previously thought. As with heavy trucks, light-vehicle crashes and near-crashes involve drowsiness about 15% to 20% of the time; previous estimates were between 4% and 8%.
  • The VTTI-developed data acquisition system provided the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) with the information required to evaluate its hours-of-service regulations (e.g., off-duty time, on-duty time, breaks, re-start provisions). Based on this information, the FMCSA adjusted its hours-of-service safety requirements by reducing the maximum number of hours (i.e., from 82 to 70 hours) a truck driver can work within a week.
  • VTTI developed a teen driving program that provides monitoring and feedback via the VTTI data acquisition system. As a result of this work, institute researchers have been featured on the Discovery Channel, 20/20, and 60 Minutes–Australia.
  • An Onboard Monitoring System Field Operational Test is currently being conducted that will result in the largest truck and motorcoach naturalistic data set to date.
  • VTTI researchers completed the first large-scale, naturalistic motorcycle study for the Motorcycle Safety Foundation; the study was designed to explore motorcycle crash causation and develop crash countermeasures.
  • VTTI launched the Automated Mobility Partnership (AMP), an ongoing industry partnership that leverages VTTI’s NDS data with the goal of promoting the development of tools, techniques, and data resources to support the rapid advancement of automated vehicles for AMP members. AMP currently comprises 13 industry partners.

Next-generation Vehicle Technology

  • The Virginia Automated Corridors (VAC) was unveiled as a partnership between VTTI, the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT), the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), Transurban, and HERE. In response to the Virginia Governor’s proclamation that Virginia is “open for business” in the realm of automation, the VAC will provide an automation-friendly environment that government agencies, original equipment manufacturers, and suppliers can use to test and certify their systems, providing a system migration path from test-track to real-world operating environments.
  • VDOT and VTTI partnered to establish the Virginia Connected Corridors (VCC). This initiative is facilitating the real-world development and deployment of connected-vehicle capabilities using more than 60 roadside equipment units. Envisioned to enhance mobility, increase sustainability, and save lives, connected-vehicle technology has been lauded by the U.S. DOT and is expected to decrease crash risk by up to 70%.
  • Faculty and students associated with the U.S. DOT-award¬ed Safety through Disruption National University Trans¬portation Center (Safe-D National UTC)—a consortium led by VTTI with partners Texas A&M Transportation Institute and San Diego State University—are using the VAC/VCC to perform research. Current projects include modeling driver responses during automated-vehicle failures, evaluating the response of autonomous vehicles to emergency response vehicles, designing and evaluating a connected work zone hazard detection and communication system, examining senior drivers’ adaptation to automated vehicles, assessing safety perceptions of transportation network companies by the blind and visually impaired, and evaluating factors surrounding child seat usage in ride-share services.
  • To date, the institute has conducted more than $30 million in connected-vehicle research and facility development and helped create a federally funded human factors guidelines for the operation of connected vehicles.
  • VTTI continues to collaborate with 38 organizations under the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) Vehicle Electronic Systems Safety IDIQ contract. This team was organized to respond to all aspects of the NHTSA project, including electronics safe reliability, cybersecurity, vehicle automation, and related human factors considerations.
  • A VTTI-led team was awarded $4.9 million to provide NHTSA with the information needed to make informed decisions regarding the technical translations of existing Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS) and related test procedures.
  • VTTI was awarded an FMCSA project to research how developers of highly automated commercial vehicles (HACVs) and their applications can ensure safe testing and deployment.
  • VTTI researchers work with major vehicle manufacturers and suppliers to test—and oftentimes develop–innovative vehicle technologies. Before a new vehicle even hits the road, most of its safety systems are first tested at VTTI.

Mobility and Infrastructure

  • Using advanced-vehicle technologies, VTTI researchers are developing mobility and lighting strategies to reduce intersection crashes and travel times. These intersection management systems include adaptive lighting systems that can be tailored to the needs of the environment.
  • VDOT and VTTI launched an accelerated pavement testing program, which uses a heavy-vehicle simulator that continuously applies a weighted load to test pavements for several months. This testing simulates the natural wear and tear caused by heavy trucks on road surfaces. The program is expected to result in cost savings in road maintenance and will enable VDOT to determine how different pavement designs and materials respond to load testing prior to integration on the road.

Affiliated Programs

  • The VTTI-affiliated Center for Injury Biomechanics is working with such partners as original equipment manufacturers, the U.S. Army, the U.S. Department of Defense, NHTSA, and the National Science Foundation to investigate injury biomechanics, injury modeling, and transportation-related injury biomechanics./li>
  • The VTTI-affiliated Global Center for Automotive Performance Simulation (GCAPS) houses the only equipment in the world designed to test tires at up to 200 mph under realistic combined loading conditions. The testing equipment is used to maximize tire performance and produce more environmentally friendly tires. GCAPS also provides the automotive industry with unique tire modeling capabilities, vehicle simulation, and tire simulation.
  • In collaboration with affiliated faculty in the departments of civil and environmental engineering, industrial and systems engineering, psychology, and statistics, VTTI offers the Human Factors of Transportation Safety Graduate Certificate Program (HFTS GCP). The certificate program is designed to create and deliver to students in-depth knowledge and marketable skills applied to the research, evaluation, maintenance, improvement, and protection of all ground transportation users and their communities, all from a human factors perspective.


  • Researchers from VTTI and the National Institutes of Health published an article in the New England Journal of Medicine on the dangers of distracted driving. The article became the Top 15 most-read article of more than 10,000 studies published by the journal. The same article was ranked the 58th most "talked about" study among thousands of research articles published in 2014.
  • To date, technical reports resulting from the 100-Car Naturalistic Driving Study have been cited nearly 3,000 times.
  • Researchers from VTTI published an article in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences using the largest crash-only light-vehicle database available to date (the SHRP 2 NDS) to inform the public about the greatest risk factors faced by drivers.


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