PA Transportation Institute Launches New Traffic Laboratory

October 13, 1998

University Park, Pa. -- Penn State's Pennsylvania Transportation Institute (PTI) has established a new facility designed to bring real world traffic situations into the laboratory or classroom for study and training.

Called the Advanced Traffic Laboratory for Automated Systems (ATLAS), the laboratory is under the direction of Dr. Ageliki Elefteriadou, assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering and PTI affiliate. The project is supported by the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering and the Mid-Atlantic Universities Transportation Center at Penn State.

ATLAS will use video cameras to monitor traffic flow and bring selected congested State College, Pa., streets and intersections into a laboratory equipped with state-of-the-art instruments for continuous, automatic data collection.

Three cameras are currently in place around State College, Pa., and will soon be transmitting images back to the laboratory for further processing. The microscopic observation of traffic and driver behavior will provide researchers with unique opportunities to develop more efficient traffic operations models, greater safety measures and more efficient management of transportation facilities.

In addition, the laboratory will serve as a unique educational tool for graduate and undergraduate students. Homework assignments and projects that cannot be currently conducted because of insufficient data will be implemented in several transportation-related courses.

Among the first projects undertaken in the laboratory will be an evaluation of how drivers' behavior affects the degree of congestion at intersections.

Elefteriadou says that a unique feature of the State College area intersections is that they are often used by "recreational drivers" or drivers not familiar with the area.

The research will focus on investigating the operational effects of various driver populations on the traffic flow.

Elefeteriadou notes that through the new facility, researchers, graduate assistants and undergraduate students will be able to observe real transportation situations in real-time; to record and analyze a multitude of traffic and travel data; and to create models with a much finer detail than is currently possible. The system will also give researchers the opportunity to develop transportation models responding to real-time conditions.

Local and state, public and private agencies will likewise benefit from the technology transfer capabilities and data availability. They will be able to apply the models that will be developed by Elefteriadou and her team to improve congested traffic situations.

Penn State

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