November 11, 2013
Blacksburg, Va., Nov. 11, 2013 – The Virginia Tech Transportation Institute will celebrate 25 years of research success Nov. 15 with public tours of the Virginia Smart Road and the institute’s research facilities. Several guest speakers will assist the institute in looking back at a quarter century of conducting research to save lives, time, and money and protect the environment.
The public celebration will be held from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. at the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute and will feature information and demos of transportation research efforts into connected-vehicle technology, automated vehicle technology, naturalistic driving, and efforts to deter distracted driving actions such as texting while driving. Tours of the Virginia Department of Transportation 511 Center will be available, as well as a demo of General Motors’ luxury crossover 2013 Cadillac SRX, a car hosting a suite of advanced safety and convenience features, many of which researchers at the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute have evaluated and/or contributed towards development.
Also planned are bus tours of the closed 2.2-mile test-bed Smart Road, including its three bridges – one of which is the tallest state-maintained bridge in Virginia – and a demonstration of the high-tech road’s weather-making capabilities. Since its opening in 2000, the road has served as a testing facility for researchers from Virginia Tech, major corporations, and governmental agencies to test new vehicles or new road-safety technologies. Roughly 17,500 test hours have been logged on the road thus far.
Scheduled guest speakers include Deborah Hersman, chairwoman of the National Transportation Safety Board and a 1992 alumnae from the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences with degrees in political science and international studies; John Capp, director of electrical systems for GM; and Nat Beuse, associate administrator for National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Vehicle Safety Research division.
Hersman serves as the chief executive of the National Transportation Safety Board and is an advocate for safety across all modes of transportation. She has been the on-scene board member for more than 20 major transportation accidents; has chaired numerous hearings, forums, and events; and regularly testifies before Congress. Hersman was first appointed to the board by President George W. Bush during 2004 and was reappointed to a second five-year term by President Obama. She was appointed chairwoman of the board by President Obama in 2009, 2011, and 2013, with unanimous senate confirmation votes. The National Transportation Safety Board is internationally recognized as a preeminent accident investigation organization with more than 400 employees and an annual budget of more than $100 million.
At GM, Capp is responsible for the development of advanced electrical systems and components for safety, comfort, and infotainment. He is also the strategic lead for active safety, driver assistance, and automated driving technologies. With nearly 30 years of experience at GM, primarily in product engineering, Capp has worked on many aspects of vehicle safety and crashworthiness. For the past seven years, he has led GM’s development and implementation of active safety, advanced driver assistance, and connected-vehicle technologies within both GM’s Research and Development and Product Engineering organizations.
Beuse is responsible for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration vehicle safety research activities, which are focused on achieving a mission of reducing fatalities and injuries caused by motor vehicle crashes. This includes developing and conducting research aimed at supporting federal motor vehicle safety standards and consumer information programs, spurring voluntary industry actions through guidelines, and advancing the state of the art on a variety of vehicle programs. Beuse also establishes and conducts new research initiatives, such as vehicle automation, vehicle electronics and cybersecurity, advanced biomechanics, improved frontal crash protection, and heavy-vehicle safety.
“Celebrating 25 years as a successful and continuously evolving research institute is a major accomplishment, and to be joined on this momentous occasion by individuals who embody transportation innovation and safety is an honor,” said Thomas A. Dingus, director of the transportation institute and an endowed professor with the Virginia Tech Charles E. Via Jr. Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering.
“As with our institute’s mission, Deborah and the National Transportation Safety Board are dedicated to saving lives within the transportation community and have been instrumental in promoting the use of advanced technology vehicles, a research initiative important to us. John and GM have been integral to our history, having invested in research conducted through our National Surface Transportation Safety Center for Excellence and testing of advanced safety systems on the Smart Road. And Nat and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration have worked with us to develop and promote safety standards for the motoring public.”
The Virginia Tech Transportation Institute started in 1988 as the Center for Transportation Research, part of the Virginia Tech College of Engineering, with 15 employees and a mission to become a resource for intelligent vehicle/infrastructure research focusing on human factors within driving and burgeoning smart car technology.
Since then, the institute has built six buildings, witnessed the construction and opening of the Virginia Smart Road in co-sponsorship with the Virginia Department of Transportation, pioneered naturalistic driving studies conducted nationally and internationally, and now has close to 400 employees. It is the second-largest university-level transportation institute in the United States and currently has more than $125 million in active research awards.
“Our success is not only due to the nearly 400 dedicated individuals who compose our faculty, staff, and students, but to the many sponsors and partners we have been fortunate enough to collaborate with during the past quarter century,” said Dingus. “On our 25th anniversary, we not only celebrate our growth, but those who helped us get here.”
Directions to the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute, 3500 Transportation Research Plaza, Blacksburg, Va., 24060. From Interstate 81 North or South: Take Exit 118B to Route 460 West and follow signs to Virginia Tech/Blacksburg. Take Exit 5A/B (Smart Road/Industrial Park Drive); follow Exit 5A to the right on exit ramp to Industrial Park Drive, turn right at end of ramp onto Industrial Park Drive, make an immediate right onto Transportation Research Drive, make first left onto Transportation Research Plaza, come up hill, turn right at top of hill, and make a left into parking lots at top of hill. From U.S. Route 460 East, take Exit 5B; on ramp, bear left onto 5B towards Blacksburg, turn left at light at end of ramp onto Main Street, turn right at first light onto Industrial Park Drive, turn right onto Transportation Research Drive, make first left onto Transportation Research Plaza, come up hill, turn right at top of hill, and make a left into parking lots at top of hill. All visitors are asked to check in at the main, multi-story building. Parking is free.
The Virginia Tech Transportation Institute conducts research to save lives, save time, save money, and protect the environment. Researchers and students from multiple fields are continuously developing the techniques and technologies to solve transportation challenges from vehicular, driver, infrastructure, and environmental perspectives. As one of seven premier research institutes created by Virginia Tech to answer national challenges, the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute has effected significant change in public policies for driver, passenger, and pedestrian safety, and it is advancing the design of vehicles and infrastructure to increase safety and reduce environmental impacts.