To improve work zone safety, the proposed research aims to develop a system architecture for unveiling high-risk behavioral patterns among highway workers, equipment operators, and drivers within dynamic highway work zones using a connected virtual environment. In the proposed research, a connected virtual environment refers to an immersive hyper-realistic and virtual environment where multiple agents (e.g. workers, drivers, and equipment handlers) control independent simulators but experience an interactive and shared experience. This research will be conducted in three sequential phases: (1) an in-depth analysis of accident investigation reports in work zones from previous years is conducted to identify common causes of work zone injuries; (2) the most frequently observed accident scenarios are simulated within the environment and the behaviors of independent operators are captured and modeled; and (3) based on the observed characteristics, diverse interventions including engineering controls (e.g. safer work zone designs, and traffic control systems) and administrative methods (e.g. planning, training, and the use of protective equipment) are tested for their effectiveness in preventing high-risk behavior. The proposed architecture is specifically used to better understand behavioral patterns that may lead to injuries and fatalities of highway workers to better protect them in high-risk work environments. A novel approach is adopted in this proposal that takes the first step to identify the causes of work zone crashes. Designing high-risk scenarios using reported and unreported causes is beneficial to avoid these behaviors and to agencies to take appropriate actions, which in turn results in reducing fatalities and injuries in work zone areas. As part of making transportation smarter, this proposal contributes to smart behavioral safety analysis.
California State University, Long Beach
Successful completion of the project would result in a research-grade virtual environment system that connects multiple agents. The proposed framework serves as a proof-of-concept and will be implemented in the next steps of this research. It allows the exploratory study to simulate work zone characteristics to evaluate work zone behavior, test intervention effectiveness, and provide a safe and realistic environment for effective training. The research team will assist with a clear plan to streamline the hardware and software development by collaborating with the Computer Science faculty to use the results of this research. A major outcome of this project is a report of connected simulation for work zone safety application which is used for smooth technology transfer. The developed system architecture and findings from this study will be widely publicized on a routine basis to the transportation and construction communities through various conference presentations and journal papers.