Safe-D: Safety through Disruption

Development of a Connected Smart Vest for Improved Roadside Work Zone Safety

 

Abstract

Roadside work zones (WZs) present imminent safety hazards for roadway workers as well as passing motorists. In 2016, 764 fatalities occurred in work zones in the United States due to motor vehicle traffic crashes. A number of factors (aging highway infrastructure, increased road work, increased levels of traffic and more nighttime WZs) have led to an increase in WZ crashes in the past few years. Consequently, WZs are becoming increasingly dangerous for workers as well as passing motorists. The standard work zone safety signage and personal protective equipment (PPE) worn by workers at roadside WZs have not been completely effective in controlling work zone crashes. A viable solution to this problem is to design a wearable device to accurately localize, monitor, and predict potential collisions between WZ actors based on their movements and activities, and communicate potential collisions to workers, passing drivers, and connected and automated vehicles (CAVs). This project aims to develop a wearable worker localization and communication device (i.e., Smart Vest) that utilizes the previously developed Threat Detection Algorithm (Safe-D project 03-050) to communicate workers’ locations to passing CAVs and proactively warn workers and passing motorists of potential collisions. As a result, this research is expected to significantly improve the safety conditions of roadside WZs through prompt detection and communication of hazardous situations to workers and drivers.

Project Highlights

  • A wearable worker localization and communication device (i.e., Smart Vest) was developed that utilizes the previously developed Threat Detection Algorithm to communicate workers’ locations to passing CAVs and proactively warn workers and passing motorists of potential collisions.
  • A demonstration video was created on the Virginia Smart Roads showcasing the Smart Vest system and other smart work zone technologies. This video was disseminated to the Virginia Tech community and infrastructure owner-operator and industry partners.
  • A field experiment was conducted at a live-work zone on public roadways to verify the GPS accuracy, communication range, and battery life of the Smart Vest Beta system.

Final Report

04-104 Final Report

EWD & T2 Products

Dr. Roofigari developed a graduate course Advanced digital Construction and Manufacturing that she teaches in Spring 2021. Smart Vest technologies are presented as technologies that will change the future of the industry. A demonstration of the vest was given at her undergraduate course(BC 2114-IT in Construction and Design) in Fall 2020 and Fall 2019.

Dr. Roofigari presented and discussed the smart vest at three committees she is involved in (construction management, traffic control in work zones, and information systems and technology) in TRB’s annual meeting in January 2020. She also presented it at Construction Research Council (CRC) conference in March 2020.

Dr. Roofigari is also invited to present her research including the smart vest as a keynote speaker at International Conference and Exhibition on Smart Material and Construction Technology to be held in Dubai in Spring 2021.

Dr. Roofigari presented the vest to a group of 45 female high school students interested in Construction Engineering in an event held by the Department of Building Construction at Virginia Tech. The students had the chance to wear and experience different features of the vest.

Student Impact Statement – Wenjun Han (pdf): The student(s) working on this project provided an impact statement describing what the project allowed them to learn/do/practice and how it benefited their education.

An Intellectual Property (IP) Disclosure was filed with Virginia Tech Intellectual Properties (VTIP) on 12/15/20.

The Smart Vest was presented to industry professionals in different safety events throughout the course of the research and was very well received. Examples of T2 activities include:

Dr Roofigari presented the initial version of the smart vest at Virginia Asphalt Association (VAA)’s Mid-Atlantic conference and expo on December 11-12, 2019 in Richmond, VA. She demonstrated a demo of the smart vest for the asphalt workers and collected feedback regarding different features of the vest. She also presented the smart vest and discuss its safety features at the VAA’s Safety committee.

Dr Roofigari-Esfahan presented the vest to Virginia Tech honors college’s industry board (consisting of the representatives from Boeing, GE and Caterpillar) on February, 25th 2020. The event was attended by 20 professionals.

A workshop was held at VTTI on March 11th focusing on another VTTI project, that included 12 people from infrastructure owner/operators (IOOs) including DBi Services, VDOT/VTRC, and Transurban. During a portion of this workshop, Dr. Mollenhauer presented the overall goals of the Smart Vest project, the current progress of the Smart Vest project, and demonstrated the Alpha Plus version of the vest.

Mollenhauer presented the Smart Vest project goals and status at the ATSSA Annual Convention and Traffic Expo on January 27th. This presentation was attended by an estimated 45 attendees in New Orleans.

Roofigari discussed the smart vest features with the TRB Construction management committee members on June 26th, 2020. The meeting was attended by 30 professionals.

Mollenhauer presented the Smart Vest project goals and status at the AASHTO Safety Summit meeting on June 17th, 2020. This presentation was attended by an estimated 77 people, including many DOT officials.

Roofigari discussed the smart vest features with the Construction Industry Institute’s Technology and innovation committee members on September 15, 2020. The meeting was attended by 65 professionals. Interest was shown to demonstrate the Vest at CII’s 2021 conference.

VTTI demonstrated Smart Vest functionality along with other project’s as part of the Work Zone technologies of the future. Virginia Tech’s University Relations made a video showing how the Smart Vest can help and alert works during dangerous situations on the road.

Dr. Roofigari is invited to present and discuss the opportunity of further developments of the smart vest at CPWR (the Center for Construction Research and Training) in Maryland. The meeting was postponed due to the COVID-19 and is expected to be scheduled in Summer 2021.

Dr Roofigari is invited to present and discuss the smart vest and associated topics in regards to worker protection innovations at American Traffic Safety Services Association(ATSSA)’ virtual Annual Convention and Traffic Expo in February 2021.

Presentations/Publications

Mollenhauer, M., Talledo-Vilela, J. P., Roofigari-Esfahan, N. (2021, July 28). Safe-D Webinar 04-104 Development of a Connected Smart Vest for Improved Roadside Work Zone Safety

Mollenhauer, M. (2020, Nov. 5). Development of a Connected Smart Vest for Improved Roadside Work Zone Safety. Virginia Department of Transportation Systems Operations Research Advisory Committee. Online.

Mollenhauer, M. (2020, Oct. 1). Development of a Connected Smart Vest for Improved Roadside Work Zone Safety. Pennsylvania Department of Transportation. Online.

Mollenhauer, M. (2020, Oct. 26). Development of a Connected Smart Vest for Improved Roadside Work Zone Safety. Autonomous Maintenance Technology Pooled Fund. Online.

Mollenhauer, M. (2020, Oct. 27). Development of a Connected Smart Vest for Improved Roadside Work Zone Safety. 5GAA Virtual Event. Online.

Mollenhauer, M. (2020, Nov. 9). Development of a Connected Smart Vest for Improved Roadside Work Zone Safety. Infrastructure Owner Operator (IOO)/Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) Reduced Speed Zone Warning (RSZW) subgroup meeting. Online.

Final Dataset

The final datasets for this project are located in the Safe-D Collection on the VTTI Dataverse; DOI: 10.15787/VTT1/PMIRWK.

Research Investigators (PI*)

Nazila Roofigari-Esfahan (VT)*
Elizabeth White (VTTI/VT)
Mike Mollenhauer (VTTI/VT)
Jean Paul Talledo Vilela (VTTI/VT)
Wenjun Han (VT)

Project Information

Start Date: 03/01/2019
End Date: 11/30/2020
Status: Complete
Grant Number: 69A3551747115
Total Funding: $591,945
Source Organization: Safe-D National UTC
Project Number: 04-104

Safe-D Theme Areas

Connected Vehicles
Automated Vehicles

Safe-D Application Areas

Operations and Design
Risk Assessment
Planning for Safety
Vulnerable Users

More Information

RiP URL
UTC Project Information Form

Sponsor Organization

Office of the Assistant Secretary for Research and Technology
University Transportation Centers Program
Department of Transportation
Washington, DC 20590 United States

Performing Organization

Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University
Virginia Tech Transportation Institute
3500 Transportation Research Plaza
Blacksburg, Virginia 24061
USA