Car-crash mystery: Why can’t drivers figure out roundabouts?
Wall Street Journal, March 14, 2020
City planners and engineers are stumped over why so many drivers can’t handle something as simple as a roundabout. Roundabouts have proliferated around the U.S. in recent years, arriving in some areas of the Midwest and West for the first time. Yet even years after some are installed, driver confusion persists. And with confusion comes fender-benders. Authorities have boosted public education, tweaked signs and modified roadway designs in search of solutions. The federal government is leading a study on drivers’ failure to yield to traffic when entering two-lane roundabouts, a major cause of collisions. State transportation departments from Washington to New York are helping fund the research.... University of Minnesota transportation researcher John Hourdos said he understands why people are leery of two-lane roundabouts. “Either that problem is going to go out with time because people are going to finally get trained, or we’re going to figure it out and change the cues to make people do the right thing without thinking,” he said.
Cutting-edge system developed in Minnesota could revolutionize commutes
KSTP-5 TV News, March 11, 2020
Your drive could soon get a little more high-tech when it comes to navigating work zones in Minnesota. Researchers at the University of Minnesota are working on something they believe could revolutionize your commute: the Statewide Work Zone Information System (SWIS). John Hourdos, director of the Minnesota Traffic Observatory, told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS it would be the first of its kind in the country. He said the idea is to put small beacons, which are wired with cellphone technology, Bluetooth radio and a GPS, onto work zone equipment like construction barrels and signs. Those beacons would then communicate with a statewide smart map to give drivers up-to-the-second updates on work zones.
University of Minnesota working to create the country's first 'Super Ambulance'
KSTP-5 TV News, March 06, 2020
The University of Minnesota has started work on what officials call a "Super Ambulance," which they say will be the first of its kind in the country. The Super Ambulance is outfitted with virtual reality technology. Researchers believe it will help save the lives of more Minnesotans. The design team took 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS inside the official mockup Friday. "There's a 3D panoramic view from this camera here," explained John Hourdos, director of the Minnesota Traffic Observatory and research associate professor at the University's Civil, Environmental and Geo-Engineering Department. "So it basically sees the whole room and it's like a big IMAX screen." Hourdos has spent the past two years developing the technology so all the equipment and cameras inside the Super Ambulance can transfer their feeds wirelessly and instantaneously.
Work-zone mapping project to reduce crashes with improved driver information
Traffic Technology Today, February 18, 2020
To improve safety at highway projects across the state, researchers at the University of Minnesota (UMN) are working on a tagging and mapping system that can efficiently gather information about the layout of work zones, perform remote inspections, and disseminate warnings to drivers. The goal of the UMN’s Statewide Work Zone Information System (SWIS) is to serve as a real-time database of active work zones from the moment the first advanced warning sign is placed to the time crews pack up.... “We know that speeding and driver inattention are the two main causes for single-vehicle crashes in Minnesota,” explained John Hourdos, director of the UMN’s Minnesota Traffic Observatory and the project’s principal investigator.
Minnesota researchers unify intersection control data for improved traffic signal control
Traffic Technology Today, November 18, 2019
A standardized and universal format for the storage and access of traffic signal data has not yet been developed. To remedy this data challenge, University of Minnesota researchers have compiled intersection control information from traffic signal control professionals throughout the state of Minnesota. John Hourdos, director of the Minnesota Traffic Observatory, provided details about the project.
University of Minnesota develops software tool to find safe HOT-lane access points
Traffic Technology Today, August 28, 2018
High-occupancy toll (HOT) lanes are one of the many tools available to transportation agencies to help them manage traffic demand on congested urban freeways. When managing HOT lanes, roadway engineers must decide whether to allow open HOT-lane access at most points or to close access and only permit drivers to enter or exit these lanes from selected ramps and access points. Researchers at the University of Minnesota Minnesota Traffic Observatory (MTO) have developed a new software tool that will help the Minnesota Department of Transportation determine safe access points for HOT lanes. “While open access can greatly increase mobility by permitting vehicles to access the HOT lane as quickly as they are able after entering the freeway, there may be some safety concerns with allowing lane changes at any point,” explained John Hourdos, MTO director.
New Software Models MnPASS HOT Lane Changes
Crossroads, June 29, 2018
“This tool is calibrated for the Twin Cities. It takes real-time data and diagrams each location separately for lane changes and reaction time. It took theoretical ideas and made them usable,” said John Hourdos, Director, Minnesota Traffic Observatory, University of Minnesota.
The Drive: Approaching a work zone? Your phone could tell you
StarTribune, August 27, 2017
Static and digital roadside signs conveying minimal information often are the only notice to warn motorists approaching a construction zone to slow down and be cautious. Drivers get so used to seeing the signs that they don’t pay attention to them and behave as if all work zones are the same, said Chen-Fu Liao, a senior systems engineer at the University of Minnesota’s Traffic Observatory. What if there were a better way to alert drivers and get their attention? This summer Liao and a research team are developing and testing the Work Zone Alert app, which would deliver messages directly to drivers in their vehicles through their smartphones or vehicle’s infotainment system.... The U’s Human First Lab found those who relied on audio from their phone had less mental workload.
New U of M app warns drivers of cone zones
KARE-11 TV News, May 25, 2017
The University of Minnesota Center for Transportation Studies has developed an app that will pair directly with technology in construction zones. Researcher Chen-Fu Liao calls it "a Bluetooth beacon." Workers can send messages to drivers as they approach construction zones. The idea is not to look down at the app or the phone but to have it speak to drivers. ... The U of M's Human First Lab tested the app for driver distractions. Researcher Nichole Morris tracked and analyzed the eye movements and responses of 100 different drivers as they navigated several simulated construction zones.
U of M researchers join new Freight Mobility Research Institute
CTS Catalyst, April 2017
Minnesota Traffic Observatory researchers will work to improve the mobility of people and goods across the nation as part of the new Freight Mobility Research Institute, a Tier 1 University Transportation Center funded in 2016. MTO director John Hourdos will serve as the Institute's assistant director for research.
Researchers urge caution during construction on stretch of I-94 with high crash rate
KSTP-TV, March 31, 2017
John Hourdos, director of the U of M’s Minnesota Traffic Observatory is featured. As construction ramps up along I-94 in Minneapolis, a team of University of Minnesota researchers is urging caution. Minnesota Traffic Observatory research shows a particular stretch of I-94, roughly from the 35W/I-94 merge to just past Portland Avenue, has the highest crash rate in the metro area with more than 150 crashes per year. That amounts to about one crash every two days.
CTS: Celebrating 30 years of innovation
CTS Catalyst, February, 2017
In celebrating its first 30 years, the Center for Transportation Studies is looking back at research, education, and engagement highlights to illustrate the innovation that makes transportation better. Traffic operations is a great example of how U of M research meets practical needs. Autoscope® technology, invented at the U of M, was commercialized in 1991. Current research at the Minnesota Traffic Observatory builds on this legacy. A short video celebrates three decades of innovation in traffic operations.
Move over one: Determining the effectiveness of ILCS in Minneapolis
Roads & Bridges, August 11, 2016
Minnesota’s Smart Lanes is the brand name of the active traffic management (ATM) system implemented on I-35W and I-94, the two busiest freeways in the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and Saint Paul. The centerpiece of this system, and a novel idea at the time of its installation since no other U.S. city has anything similar, is the implementation of Intelligent Lane Control Signs (ILCS). Minnesota Traffic Observatory director John Hourdos explains.
Deadly crash highlights danger of left turns
St. Cloud Times, August 3, 2016
Research shows left-turning vehicles are more likely to be involved in a collision, because the vehicle must cross in front of oncoming traffic.... Experts say that while there are some steps that can be taken to reduce the hazards, such as better road design and alert drivers, turning left is just inherently more risky. "They are the most dangerous because they are direct conflicts between different movements," said John Hourdos, director of the Minnesota Traffic Observatory and an adjunct assistant civil engineering professor at the University of Minnesota.
The Drive: Do Smart Lanes Help Drivers? Sort of
StarTribune, July 03, 2016
A new study by researchers at the University of Minnesota’s Traffic Observatory shows that drivers are heeding the messages displayed on the high-tech warning signs designed to get them to switch lanes before they reach the point where there is a stall, crash or hazard impeding traffic. But when it comes to mitigating congestion, well, that’s another story.... The signs had the intended effect on driver behavior, meaning vehicles vacated the lanes far enough in advance to minimize traffic disruption, said study coordinator John Hourdos.
State invests $32M in highway projects
Minnesota Daily, February 1, 2016
To help repair some of Minnesota's crumbling roadways and bridges, several state transportation departments doled out $32 million in grants last month for highway projects. The 11 projects are geared toward economic development and job creation. All are funded through the Transportation Economic Development Program and approved by the Minnesota Department of Transportation and the Department of Employment and Economic Development. ... In 2013, the American Society of Civil Engineers found that 11 percent of the state's major roads are in poor condition. Because of Minnesota's snow and frost cycle, roads need to be repaired more often, said Minnesota Traffic Observatory Director John Hourdos.
Seven stories down: U building serves as a tribute to Minnesota experimentalism
MinnPost, September 16, 2015
Highlights of the underground Civil Engineering building includes the Minnesota Traffic Observatory, and how researchers there study how traffic moves through the metro area.
MnDOT to completely close stretch of 169 for a year
KARE-11 News, August 19, 2015
MnDOT recently announced that a section of Highway 169 from Bren Road to 7th Street will be completely shut down for as long as a year beginning in the fall of 2016. The closure will allow the complete re-construction of the bridge over Nine Mile Creek in Hopkins, Minnetonka, and Edina. Traffic expert John Hourdos believes it's more efficient to rebuild the bridge all together, like MnDOT plans, instead of in parts.
Good Question: What Are Our Busiest Freeways?
WCCO-4 TV News, April 2, 2015
Heather Brown finds out that the areas with the highest number of drivers generally have the most congestion. Minnesota Traffic Observatory lab manager Stephen Zitzow comments.
Is V2V soon to be a reality?
KMSP TV, August 18, 2014
On Monday, federal government workers took the first step in requiring cars to include technology that will allow vehicles to communicate with one another. Researchers at the U of M are currently building a test facility along Interstate 94 for cars that will one day be equipped with the technology. U of M Minnesota Traffic Observatory's John Hourdos and Humphrey School of Public Affairs' Frank Douma offered their comments.
Signs along highways warn Minnesota motorists of 'shock-wave effect'
KSTP-5 TV News, March 18, 2014
The Minnesota Traffic Observatory says the "shock-wave effect" causes hundreds of crashes a year. The "shock-wave effect" is when a car in front of you brakes hard—and you're forced to hit your brakes. The Minnesota Traffic Observatory is testing a new shock-wave warning system, using electronic message boards with Intelligent Lane Control Signs (ILCS). MTO director John Hourdos is interviewed.
Minn. Traffic Expert: Lessons Can be Learned from Atlanta Snow Storm
KSTP-5 TV News, January 30, 2014
John Hourdos, the director of the Minnesota Traffic Observatory, stopped by KSTP to talk about what we can all learn from the mess in Atlanta. Without proper chemicals and hardly any salt trucks, he says officials should have told people to stay home.
Do smartphone traffic apps really work?
StarTribune, January 29, 2014
Apps like Waze and Google Maps highlight the fastest routes based on traffic data, while MnDOT’s 511 app posts traffic and road conditions. But computers aren’t always the best co-pilots, especially in a Minnesota snowstorm. The technology can provide a nifty snapshot of the present, but can’t say with absolute certainty what will come next. U of M professor David Levinson and Minnesota Traffic Observatory director John Hourdos interviewed.
University of Minnesota develops warning system
Traffic Technology Today, October 18, 2013
To help drivers pay more attention in work zones, researchers from the University of Minnesota developed the Intelligent Drum Line (IDL) system prototype. The portable, dynamic warning system project was led by John Hourdos, director of the U of M's Minnesota Traffic Observatory, and sponsored by the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT).
No quick fix for busy I-94 through Central Minnesota
St. Cloud Times, October 13, 2013
Is solution to congestion more lanes, user fees or improved transit? Adding another lane to Interstate Highway 94 between St. Cloud and the Twin Cities may seem like an obvious solution to the traffic backups that often frustrate motorists. But engineers and transportation experts say it isn't that simple to ease the flow of vehicles in one area without causing problems somewhere else. Adding another lane is not only expensive, it wouldn't solve the congestion and could even make the bottleneck near the Twin Cities worse.
Experts say more I-94 lanes from Twin Cities to St. Cloud not best fix for congestion headache
StarTribune, October 13, 2013
Solving chronic traffic congestion on Interstate 94 between the Twin Cities and St. Cloud is not likely to be as simple as adding additional lanes. Some political leaders have supported that approach as a solution to chronic backups, particularly in stretches closer to the Twin Cities. But the St. Cloud Times reported Sunday that engineers and traffic experts say it's not that simple, and could even end up making bottlenecks worse.
Good Question: Why Do We Use Cloverleaf Interchanges On Roads?
WCCO 4 TV News, June 20, 2013
We've all seen the traffic camera shot of a tractor-trailer sprawled out on the highway after trying to take a cloverleaf curve. So, that had one viewer wondering: Why do we use cloverleaf interchanges on interstates? Heather Brown interviews Minnesota Traffic Observatory lab manager Stephen Zitzow for an explanation.
18 Brilliant ways to end gridlock and save billions
Business Insider, February 27, 2013
Congestion takes its toll of the planet as well: Most cars are at their least efficient in stop and go traffic, and the wasted fuel only makes their impact on the atmosphere worse. Fortunately for drivers tired of spending hours in the car, national economies that could use a few extra billion dollars, and everyone hoping for a healthier planet, gridlock can be eliminated. University of Minnesota experts Henry Liu, John Hourdos, and Kathleen Harder offer some solutions.
Lake Bluff drivers may go round and round
Lake Forest-Lake Bluff Patch, September 13, 2012
Traffic circles, believed to be safer and more efficient, may be on the way. One expert on traffic engineering said roundabouts reduce vehicle collisions by up to 70 percent. "That’s because they eliminate several of the conflicts that regular intersections have," John Hourdos, director of the Minnesota Traffic Observatory at the University of Minnesota, said. "A typical intersection has 16 to 24 conflict points and a roundabout has eight."
Where are Minnesota’s most crash-prone intersections?
MinnPost, July 27, 2012
Last year, there were 368 traffic deaths in Minnesota. MnDOT provided MinnPost with a list of the worst 20 intersections across the state. John Hourdos, director of the Minnesota Traffic Observatory, an engineering lab at the University of Minnesota, offered some ideas about what can be done, if anything, to make them safer.
Maple Grove researcher tests app for visually impaired
Northwest Community Television, April 20, 2012
Chen-Fu Liao says a simple tap of a touch screen can guide visually impaired walkers across the street. Liao is a researcher at the University of Minnesota and the Center for Transportation Studies. He developed a smart phone app designed to go beyond existing crosswalk aides. His cell phone app is designed to not only request a walk signal and give visually impaired walkers a countdown to cross, but also to give them a layout of the intersection.
Why does a little bit of rain make our commute suck so much?
SF Weekly, March 15, 2012
How is it that a little bit of rain can bring commuters to such a frustrating stand-still? John Hourdos, director of the Minnesota Traffic Observatory at the ITS Institute, says its because drivers on a highway act as a single organism, with each car's movement dependent upon the movement of the cars around it as well as the cars miles ahead.
U of M researchers tap into smartphones to help visually impaired
KARE 11, February 16, 2012
University of Minnesota researchers are working on a smartphone application that could change the way visually impaired pedestrians navigate city streets. Chen-Fu Liao, senior systems engineer at the Minnesota Traffic Observatory, says it's a cost-effective program that takes advantage of smartphone capabilities like GPS. All it requires is adding a small box to an existing traffic signal box to send intersection information to users.
Minnesota Traffic Observatory makes transportation smarter
Business @ the U of M, January 12, 2012
To improve your daily commute, the Minnesota Traffic Observatory plays a major role behind the scenes, studying everything from busy intersections to electronic toll lanes. Safety is the lab’s top priority. The observatory, which falls under the umbrella of the University of Minnesota’s Intelligent Transportation Systems Institute, is a high-tech transportation lab that develops tools for surveying, monitoring and managing traffic systems.
Roundabout confusion in Richfield keeps going
Star Tribune, August 26, 2011
The city is taking steps to help flustered drivers at busy roundabout. If the confusion is baffling to traffic engineers, who say roundabouts aren't that different from regular intersections, it does not surprise John Hourdos, director of the Minnesota Traffic Observatory at the University of Minnesota. He is doing a state-funded study on driver behavior and the effects of signs and striping in the Richfield roundabout.
Lowry Hill tunnel crash: Luck keeps tragedy from worsening
Star Tribune, August 11, 2011
A fatal crash during morning rush hour killed a trucker, but fortune kept the situation from becoming more horrific, the State Patrol said. The tunnel is not a high-crash location because traffic in both directions is usually congested and slow by the time it reaches the entrances, said John Hourdos, a professor of civil engineering and director of the Minnesota Traffic Observatory at the University of Minnesota. And Hourdos said accident numbers in the higher-crash area have fallen by one-third in recent years, after lines that reduced abrupt merging were painted on the road, he said.
Driver ID'd in deadly Lowry Tunnel crash; occurs in accident-prone area
KARE 11 News, August 11, 2011
The driver of a semi-tractor trailer who was killed in a big crash in the Lowry Tunnel Wednesday morning has been identified. That while authorities say the accident happened in an area known for its congestion and high number of crashes. "This is one of those locations, because of the congestion, because of the overloading capacity, inattentive drivers are not forgiven," said John Hourdos with the Minnesota Traffic Observatory.
Traffic Expert Talks Lowry Tunnel Woes
Fox 9 News, August 10, 2011
A semi-truck struck a light pole early Wednesday and overturned while entering the Lowry Tunnel on Interstate 94 in Minneapolis. The freeway was shut down for several hours and rush hour traffic diverted. The tunnel is a consistent source of commute congestion, so FOX 9 News spoke with John Hourdos, the director of the Minnesota Traffic Observatory, about why the section of road is a headache that isn’t likely to go away.
Chairman Oberstar visits University for transportation research update
U.S. Rep. James L. Oberstar, chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, visited the University of Minnesota on November 12 for an update on the latest University transportation research. He met with Transportation Engineering and Road Research Alliance (TERRA) board members, tried out the HumanFIRST driving simulator, and toured the Minnesota Traffic Observatory (MTO), guided by CTS acting director Laurie McGinnis and ITS Institute director Max Donath. "I love what you're doing here," Oberstar said.
Crash avoidance technology advances
Minnesota Public Radio, November 25, 2009
Two innovations designed to help drivers avoid distraction-related crashes are being introduced. The Minnesota Department of Transportation is implementing a pioneering advisory speed limit system at I-35W south of downtown Minneapolis, using sensors embedded in the highway to trigger speed limit advisory signs. Another safety innovation is emergency braking systems, and Volvo is the first car manufacturer to make it available in showrooms. John Hourdos, director of the Minnesota Traffic Observatory, participated in a test of the new technology, which uses a video camera and laser beam to detect objects in front of the car and stops the car if the driver doesn't react.
Experts say re-timing traffic signals could reduce pollution, travel times
Minnesota Public Radio, June 18, 2009
Researchers suggest that dramatic reductions in pollution could be achieved simply by retiming traffic lights... The other problem impeding smoother Twin Cities traffic flow is too many cooks in the kitchen, according to the John Hourdos, a University of Minnesota engineering researcher and traffic expert.
Bridge to the GOP: Will the Twin Cities be ready for the Republican convention?
Newsweek Web Extra, Jun 17, 2008
A report on the effects of the I-35W bridge collapse, and rebuilding efforts. Includes comments by John Hourdos, director of the Minnesota Traffic Observatory, and David Levinson, Associate Professor, Department of Civil, Environmental, and Geo- Engineering.
In-Depth: Merge Madness
Fox 9 News, May 1, 2008
John Hourdos, director of the Minnesota Traffic Observatory, contributes to an analysis of merging behavior among Twin Cities drivers
I-394: Interstate bottleneck explained
KARE-11 News, November 13, 2007
Newspaper cites U of M expert (PDF)
Star Tribune, May 1, 2007 (as covered in the CTS Report, August 2007)
Drawing a new line against I-94 crashes
Star Tribune, October 16, 2006
MnDOT adds double white lines in effort to reduce crashes
KARE-11, October 2006
A MnDOT crew painted a 700-foot long double white line where traffic from I-35W northbound merges onto I-94 westbound. University of Minnesota traffic researcher John Hourdos explained that drivers coming from I-35W merge too soon, causing accidents up to a thousand feet before the intersection.