Virginia Tech Transportation Institute researching ways to bring self-driving cars to you

BLACKSBURG, Va. – Researchers in Blacksburg are leading cutting-edge research to help self-driving come to a city near you.

Manufacturers are working to figure out how fully automated driving systems could safely work in cities across the country.

That’s where the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute (VTTI) comes in.

Gibran Ali, a senior research associate, says VTTI was approached by the National Institute of Standards and Technology to create an online database to help answer those questions.

VTTI researchers used publicly available data on weather patterns, roadways and even fatal crash statistics in 30 US cities to create the operational design domain element quantification tool.

The goal is to help automated vehicle manufacturers and governments identify the best cities to roll out self-driving cars.

“We’ve done a fair bit of work making it accessible and interactive,” said Ali.

In each city, the tool shows where populations mostly live and work, and creates the best-automated driving routes from point A to B.

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Some automated driving systems might not work well in heavy snow, rain or fog, so researchers analyzed weather data like average temperature, humidity and rainfall. That way, manufacturers can compare and contrast cities to find the perfect fit.

“Vision systems or perception systems may be composed of sensors … when it’s heavily snowing or raining they may not perform as expected. it could mean those systems are not deployable in those conditions. ”

Other cars might only work at lower speeds, so the tool can re-calculate a route avoiding highways.

Ali says VTTI has so many minds working on solving the challenges facing the automated driving industry. and this tool is just a starting point.

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