FOT-Net talks to Jack Ference from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and Jim Sayer from the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute (UMTRI) about one of the most important Field Operational Test activities in the U.S.

Under the Integrated Vehicle Based Safety Systems (IVBSS) programme a cooperative agreement between the U.S. Department of Transportation and the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute (UMTRI) initiated a Field Operational Test in 2009 which has now recently been concluded.
Several industrial partners freight and fleet companies took part in this initiative and tested vehicles equipped with an integrated suite of advanced driver alert and vehicle control technologies.

Testing these technologies started in February 2009. Over the subsequent months UMTRI as programme manager conducted field testing and evaluation of a new integrated crash warning system for commercial trucks. The final report is now underway and will be released soon!

The programme collected and analysed data on system performance as well as driver interaction and feedback in real-world operating conditions.

FOT-Net: Can you explain the general organisation and stakeholders of this field test? What is the government perspective of such Field Test?

Jack Ference: The IVBSS program is a cooperative agreement between the U.S. Department of Transportation and the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute (UMTRI).  The U.S. DOT team includes the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) the Research and Innovative Technology Administration—specifically its Intelligent Transportation Systems Joint Program Office and the Volpe National Transportation Systems Center—the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.

Jim Sayer: The team led by UMTRI working on the light-vehicle platform includes Visteon Corporation Honda R&D Americas and Takata Corporation. The heavy-truck platform partners are Eaton Corporation International Truck and Engine Corporation Takata Corporation Con-way Freight and Battelle. The involvement of industrial partners on the IVBSS program was considered to be critical given the partners’ technical knowledge of and ultimate ability to deploy actual systems into the U. S. vehicle fleet.

Jack Ference: Field operational tests provide NHTSA with the opportunity to obtain more in-depth knowledge of advanced safety systems and information on their performance effectiveness and driver acceptance. Data collected during the field trials is also used to estimate potential safety benefits for these systems support decision-making and programs such as the Agency’s consumer information program the New Car Assessment Program (NCAP) to promote effective safety technologies.

FOT-Net: What are the various systems that have been tested and the number of fleets and freight companies that took part? Can you give us some more details about the scale of the field test?

Jim Sayer: Three crash-warning subsystems were integrated into both light vehicles (passenger cars) and heavy trucks (Class 8 commercial tractors): forward crash warning lateral drift warning and lane-change/merge crash warning.
The light-vehicle platform also included a curve-speed warning subsystem. There were essentially two field tests one with the heavy trucks and one with the passenger cars.  The heavy truck field test was conducted using 10 tractors and 18 drivers from Con-way Freight collecting naturalistic data for 10 months and more than 600000 miles. The passenger car field test was conducted using 16 four-door sedans and 108 lay drivers collecting naturalistic data for 12 months and more that 200000 miles.  Each vehicle was instrumented to capture detailed data on the driving environment driver behaviour warning system activity and vehicle kinematics.

FOT-Net: We understand that the final report of the FOT will be published soon. Can you already reveal some key findings of the IVBSS study?

Jack Ference: The first key finding is that drivers both commercial and lay drivers are generally accepting of integrated crash warning systems – even prototype systems that still have a few kinks to be worked out.  Drivers consistently state that the integrated system made them more aware of the traffic environment particularly the vehicles around them.  Drivers have also stated time and again that they thought that the integrated system would increase their driving safety. 
Jim Sayer: Having reviewed a lot of the videos from when warnings were presented UMTRI has identified at least three crashes that appear to have been prevented by the integrated crash warning system. Commercial truck drivers liked the lane departure warning component the most whereas the lay drivers liked the blind spot monitoring component of the lane change/merge warning system best.

While we have completed analyses of the heavy truck data we are still analysing the data from the passenger car field test. From the heavy truck data we did not find any consistent evidence drivers over-relied on warnings from the integrated system at least not as it relates to increased involvement in secondary tasks (talking on the cell phone eating etc.). When the integrated system was on as compared to a baseline period commercial drivers did a better job at maintaining the position in the centre of the lane.  There was also an increase in following distances observed but it was so small as to be of little practical significance. Perhaps of greatest interest is that the truck drivers had faster reaction times to the onset of the brakes when there was a forward conflict when the integrated system was on.

FOT-Net: What measures will be taken to ensure wider take-up and acceptance of these safety systems? Are fleet and freight companies ready to implement these safety systems on a permanent basis?

Jack Ference: NHTSA has been encouraging deployment of advanced safety technologies by recognising them through its consumer information program the New Car Assessment Program (NCAP) for light vehicles. Currently there are three confirmation tests for forward collision warning and lane departure warning systems which if manufacturers can demonstrate they have passed they will be able to list that their vehicle is equipped with these systems.  As part of this new programme being introduced in 2011 we plan significant outreach partnerships and publicity for these new systems.  The Agency is also looking into the next technology to be added to the NCAP program.  
History has shown the consumer information programmes are an effective tool in promoting safety advances.  For example the NCAP Rollover rating programme superseded the significant increase and ultimate requirement for Electronic Stability Control.   We believe that beneficial advanced technologies will follow a similar path. The Agency’s plan for encouraging advanced safety systems for heavy trucks is under development.

The U.S. Department of Transportation (U.S. DOT) will host a one-day public meeting on 20 October 2010 to provide a report on all of the results from the Integrated Vehicle-Based Safety Systems (IVBSS) field operational test. The meeting will be held at Eagle Crest Conference Center in Ypsilanti MI. and is open to members of the vehicle safety research community and other interested parties. Registration instructions and additional information on the meeting can be found on our website.

Online registration deadline is 15 October  2010.

Profile of Interviewees:

Jack Ference is an electronics engineer at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration where he has been managing cooperative research programmes with the U.S. automotive industry for the past 15 years. Programmes he has been involved in include development and field testing of automotive night vision systems rear-end collision warning and adaptive cruise control systems and most recently integration of rear-end lane change/merge and road departure warning systems in light vehicles and heavy trucks.

Jim Sayer is the Project Director of the IVBSS FOT program and an Associate Research Scientist at the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute (UMTRI).  He has been with UMTRI since 1993 and during this time has led or assisted in the conduct of four field operational tests of driver assistance systems involving 400 drivers and over 1 million miles of data collection. His background is in human factors and experimental psychology.

IVBSS is a government-industry-academia partnership including the U.S. DOT National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute (UMTRI).
More IVBSS information and current reports are also available. Click here

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Original Publication Date: Tue 05 Oct 2010