Safe-D: Safety through Disruption

Smart Work Zone System​


In a previous Safe-D project (Project 04-104), researchers developed and demonstrated a prototype wearable Personal Protective Equipment vest that accurately localizes, monitors, and predicts potential collisions between work zone workers and passing motorists. The system also notifies the worker of when they’re about to depart safe geo-fenced safe areas within work zones. While the design supported a successful functional demonstration, additional design iteration was required to simplify, ruggedize, and reduce the per-unit costs in order to increase the likelihood of broader adoption. In addition, two new useful components were identified that would support a more effective deployment package. A base-station was added to provide an edge computing environment for alert algorithm processing, consolidating communications of individual worker positions via a 4G link to a cloud computing environment, and can be coupled with a local RSU to support the broadcast of work zone information to connected vehicles. In addition, a smart cone device was added that can help automatically define safe area boundaries and improve communications reliability between workers and the base station. The entire package was developed to support a broader-scale deployment of the technology with the Virginia Department of Transportation.

Project Highlights

The Smart Work Zone system includes Smart Vests, Smart Cones, and Base Station Devices. The system also interfaces with the Work Zone Builder tablet application to provide a complete system for managing work zone safety while providing data for informing Connected and Automated Vehicles (CAVs) about work zone deployments.

The Smart Work Zone system is a dynamic wireless system that provides alerts to work zone workers and passing motorists including connected and automated vehicles (CAVs) when a potential collision is imminent or when the worker is about to cross a safe area geofence boundary. The system uses four components: Smart Vest, Smart Cone, C-V2X Base Station, and Work Zone Builder Application.

Core Features:

Alert worker to potential hazards

Communicate Real-Time Work Zone status

Design Work Zone Layouts

Provide data to Work zone data exchanges

ATSSA Innovation Award 2nd place

Virginia Tech Link + License + Launch Tech Highlight

C-V2X Work Zone demonstration using Smart Vest and C-V2X base Station. Participated on ITSA “Best of ITS Awards”

Safely Operating ADS Research project integrates Smart Work Zone technology

Final Report

Final Report 00-036

EWD & T2 Products

Student Impact Statement – Daniel Burdisso (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.

Project Information Sheet can be found here

Video for ATSSA’s 52nd Annual Convention & Traffic Expo – Innovation Awards below.

The following PDF provides a technology highlight of the Smart Work Zone System.

Provisional Patent filed with VTIP and US Patent on 01/2022

The Smart Work Zone technology has been incorporated into two research projects at VTTI:

C-V2X Deployment on Virginia Roadways improving work zone and traffic intersection safety found here: and

Work Zone deployment on Wise County found here:


Mollenhauer, M. (2021). Smart Vest, WZB, and C-V2X Presentation. AV Summit Series #3 – Work Zones, Pittsburg, PA, United States.

Mollenhauer, M. (2021). Smart Vest and Base Station Presentation. Army Demo.

Mollenhauer, M. (2021). Smart Vest, Base Station, WZB, and Smart Intersection Presentation. Falls Church Smart City Demo, Blacksburg, VA, United States.

Mollenhauer, M., Talledo Vilela, J.P. (2021). Smart Work Zone System Presentation. ITS America Conference, Charlotte, NC, United States.

Mollenhauer, M., Talledo Vilela, J.P. (2022). Smart Work Zone System Demonstration. VDOT, Wise County, VA, United States.

Mollenhauer, M., Talledo Vilela, J.P. (2022). Smart Work Zone System Demonstration. VDOT, Vienna, VA, United States.

Final Dataset

The final datasets for this project are located in the Safe-D Collection on the VTTI Dataverse; DOI: 10.15787/VTT1/JNJFX5.

Research Investigators (PI*)

Mike Mollenhauer (VTTI/VT)*
Elizabeth White (VTTI/VT)
Jean Paul Talledo Vilela (VTTI/VT)
Will Vaughan (VT)

Project Information

Start Date: 2021-03-01
End Date: 2022-08-30
Status: Complete
Grant Number: 69A3551747115
Total Funding: $287,472
Source Organization: Safe-D National UTC
Project Number: VTTI-00-036

Safe-D Theme Areas

Connected Vehicles

Automated Vehicles

Safe-D Application Areas

Vulnerable Users
Planning For Safety
Operations and Design

More Information

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