Category Archives: Activities Technology Transfer

Leveraging New Vehicle Technologies to Address Congestion, Environmental Impacts and Traffic Safety

With increasing frequency, the public is exposed to news coverage announcing the autonomous vehicle (AV) revolution and the ways in which mobile devices, sensors and other connected vehicle (CV) technologies are redefining the automotive world. As engineers and other specialists contend with the technical aspects of AVs and CVs, society grapples with questions about safety, reliability and other potential effects on personal mobility.

Connected vehicles leverage a number of communication technologies, often sensors and mobile devices, to communicate with the driver, other vehicles and roadside infrastructure. Autonomous vehicles, often referred to as driverless or self-driving cars, are capable of sensing their surrounding environment and reacting without human input. Together, CVs and AVs represent the leading edge of innovative solutions to address congestion, environmental concerns and traffic safety. However, they also represent complex public policy issues related to social, economic and consumer impacts.

Researchers within the MATS UTC consortium are seeking to understand how ever-evolving CV and AV technical advances can be leveraged for more efficient and safe use of the built environment. CVs and AVs represent the opportunity to gather real-time mobile data, revealing important traffic information and driving behaviors not available through existing monitoring devices such as stationary cameras. Many of these research efforts are being applied to existing traffic issues, such as safety and movement through intersections, and environmental concerns, such as fuel economies and emissions.

Examples of these research efforts include:

Connected Vehicle Technologies for Energy Efficient Urban Transportation

Researchers at the University of Delaware and Morgan State University are using connected vehicle technology to optimize a vehicle’s control system in real-time to reduce congestion, improve fuel economy and reduce emissions. Using hybrid buses operating at the University of Delaware, the team is studying how intelligently integrated components can respond to both routine and atypical traffic situations, resulting in optimized traffic control and vehicle fuel economy.

Eco-Speed Control for Hybrid Electric Buses in the Vicinity of Signalized Intersections

Communication between a traffic signal controller and a vehicle equipped with a global positioning system (GPS) and communication hardware provides a research team from Virginia Tech and Morgan State University with sufficient information (vehicle position, vehicle speed and signal phasing and timing data) to compute fuel-efficient speeds. The team is leveraging this communication, developing Eco-Speed Control algorithms for buses using predictive energy estimation models. These models identify optimum speed profiles using information from surrounding vehicles and upcoming signalized intersections. The goal is to predict the most efficient speed to move a bus through an intersection and reduce ‘stop/go’ behavior, a key reason for inefficient fuel economy.

Investigating the Relationship between Driving Patterns and Traffic Safety using Smartphones-Based Mobile Sensor Data

Collecting high-resolution speed and acceleration data is now feasible with mobile consumer devices such as smartphones. Smartphones are equipped with sensors capable of recording vehicle performance data at a very fine temporal resolution in a cost-effective way. Researchers at Old Dominion University used this mobile sensor data to identify unsafe driving patterns and quantified the relationship between these driving patterns and traffic crash incidences. The models with microscopic traffic measures were shown to be statistically better than traditional models that only control for roadway geometry and traffic exposure variables.

Connected Vehicle Freeway Speed Harmonization Systems

Research conducted at Virginia Tech seeks to develop a dynamic speed harmonization application (SPD-HARM) that makes use of the frequently collected and rapidly disseminated multi-source data drawn from connected travelers, roadside sensors, and infrastructure. Using the connected vehicle environment, the research team is developing systems and algorithms to generate traffic condition predictions, alternative scenarios and solution evaluations in real-time. The goal is to reduce crashes, whether due to speeding, poor visibility, inclement weather or construction activities.

Leveraging Connected Vehicles to Enhance Traffic Responsive Traffic Signal Control

With growing use of connected vehicles equipped with communication technologies such as GPS to communicate with the driver, other cars and roadside infrastructure, researchers at Old Dominion University, Virginia Tech and Marshall University are exploring optimization of current adaptive signal control technology to estimate queue length and develop enhanced signal coordination through communication with CV sensors. The research focuses on Traffic Responsive Plan Selection (TRPS), an underutilized adaptive control product enabling the selection of pre-programmed traffic signal timing plans based on vehicle demand observed from selected vehicle detectors along a signalized corridor.

Exploring the use of LIDAR Data from Autonomous Cars for Estimating Traffic Flow Parameters and Vehicle Trajectories

Autonomous vehicles are typically equipped with LIDAR (light detection and ranging remote sensing technology) or other similar sensors to detect obstacles in the surrounding environment and can be a means to track other vehicles in adjacent lanes. At Old Dominion University, LIDAR is being used to estimate traffic flow parameters along the path of the autonomous car from point-cloud data. New algorithms and models are in development to extract traffic flow information from raw LIDAR data, enabling real-world data collection for safety studies and estimations of traffic flow and driving behavior.

Planning for Walking and Cycling in an Autonomous Vehicle Future

In an automated environment, it is possible bikers and pedestrians will be safer due to improved braking technologies. However, safety may be negatively impacted if drivers, cyclists and pedestrians over-rely on automated technology. If, for example, pedestrians and cyclists assume AVs will ‘automatically’ stop for them, then there may be increases in unsafe walking and cycling behaviors such as jay-walking or failing to use designated bike lanes. Researchers at Virginia Tech and the University of Virginia are using semi-structured interviews with various stakeholders to develop planning guidelines for walking and cycling as society transitions to an automated fleet.

These research efforts are contributing to our understanding of the challenges associated with dynamic traffic conditions in an automated and connected environment. Most importantly, these projects are using real-time traffic data to develop new approaches, such as optimized traffic signals and other traffic responsive systems, to reduce fuel consumption, improve safety, and minimize congestion.

2016 Undergraduate Research End of Summer Symposium

On Thursday, July 28, 2016 we will hold our second annual Undergraduate Summer Research Internship Program (USRIP) End of Summer Symposium.  Our six UVA researchers will present posters in Thornton D223.  From 1pm-4:30pm we will hold an online webinar that will feature oral presentations from all eleven of our researchers at four MATS UTC universities.  The 2016 USRIPs are from seven different universities.

Webinar registration

Please come back to this news post that will eventually include all of the presentations, final reports and posters of our participants.

Our line-up on Thursday, July 28:

1:00 pm Welcome, MATS UTC Managing Director, Emily Parkany

1:05 pm Michelle Pasco (Old Dominion University, working at UVA)   Understanding Map Integration Using GIS Software (Presentation) (Report)
1:20 pm Benjamin Weible  (Marshall University, working at Marshall) Investigating the Impact of Skewed Pneumatic Traffic-Counting Tubes on Accuracy (Presentation) (Report)
1:35 pm Olufunmilayo “Fumi” Ogunye  (Morgan State University, working at UVA)  Transportation Corridor Resilience Assessment(Presentation) (Report)

BREAK (UVA USRIPs by their posters)

2:05 pm Rachel Carder (Marshall University, working at UVA)  Fabrication and Cyclic Loading of Superelastic Shape Memory Alloy Reinforced Polymer (Presentation) (Report)
2:20 pm Divannia Hill (University of Delaware, working at UVA)  Self-Sensing Cementitious Composites with Graphene Nanoplatelets Using a Simple and Scalable Fabrication Method (Presentation) (Report)
2:35 pm Alec l’Amoreaux  (University of Delaware, working at UD) and Marc “Gus” Touissant   (University of Delaware, working at UD)  The Effects of Neighborhood Size and Data Cleaning on Intelligent Compaction (IC) and In-Situ Data Comparisons (Joint Presentation) (l’Amoreaux Report) (Toussaint Report)

BREAK (UVA USRIPs by their posters)

3:20 pm Maria Rossetti (University of Arkansas, working at UVA)    Sample Study of a Bioretention Cell enhanced with Zero-Valent Iron and Biochar (Presentation) (Report)
3:35 pm Carolyn Pisciotta (Georgia Tech, working at UD) Quantifying Biochar Concentrations in Soil Samples (Presentation) (Report)
3:50 pm Megan Witherow (Old Dominion University, working at ODU) Analysis of Crowd-sourced Flooding Images Using Computer Vision Techniques (Presentation) (Report)
4:05 pm Abby Blase (University of Virginia, working at UVA) Projected flood impacts from Sea Level Rise, Tides, and Spatially Variable Storm Surge on Roadways in Norfolk and Virginia Beach, VA (Presentation) (Report)

4:20 RECEPTION at UVA (USRIPs by their posters)

Many thanks to MATS UTC and the UVA Center for Diversity for support of this year’s Undergraduate Summer Research Internship Program.

Website for last year’s 2015 Symposium including video, final reports, oral presentations and posters of the nine USRPs who worked at UVA.

Register for the MATS UTC Annual Meeting or Open House August 4-5 in Charlottesville

We are happy to announce that registration is open for the MATS UTC Annual Meeting, August 4-5 in Charlottesville, VA. Following a similar format to last year, we will start at noon on Thursday with a lunch and poster session featuring most of our 30 active or newly completed projects.  Then we’ll have a State of the Center presentation and featured junior faculty speakers from around the region.  The poster session and afternoon sessions will be open to the public as our first MATS UTC Open House.  After a dessert reception and candlelight tours of the UVA Grounds, we will meet Friday morning with break out discussions.  Friday afternoon features a Transportation Sustainability Workshop.  More details are provided below.

We’re staying at The Graduate Hotel and a limited number of rooms are available at the government rate.  Please register for the meeting with the link below and then reserve your $128 hotel room by calling 434-295-4333, option 1 as soon as possible but before June 30, 2016.

MATS UTC Affiliates:
Full Meeting Registration:
MATS UTC faculty, staff and researchers will pay a $50 registration fee.
Students and Advisory Board Members, please register as “Local Government” and select “Pay by Check” to receive complimentary conference registration.

Non-MATS UTC Affiliates:
Open House Registration Only (Free!):
Includes Thursday activities from 12-4:30pm.

(After registering (and paying as appropriate) you will receive an automatic confirmation that suggests that you have signed up for a Transportation Training Academy class.  This confirms your registration to the Annual Meeting.)

More Agenda Details

THURSDAY, August 4

OPEN HOUSE from 12:00-5:00 in Rice Hall on the University of Virginia Grounds in Charlottesville.  Open to all.  Registrations preferred.

12:00-2:00  MATS UTC Research Project Posters  (over 30!) and Lunch

Move to Rice Hall Auditorium.  This portion is available as a webinar:  Register Here

2:15-2:45 State of MATS UTC Presentation (Brian Smith)
2:45-5:00  Emerging Research Areas and Opportunities
                2:45-3:00  Rajesh Paleti, Old Dominion University
                3:00-3:15  Hao Chen, Virginia Tech Transportation Institute
                3:15-3:30  Celeste Chavis, Morgan State University
                3:30-3:45 Wrap Up and Audience Discussion
4:00-4:15  Julia Maresca, University of Delaware
                4:15-4:30  Hai Nguyen, Marshall University
                4:30-4:45 Cody Fleming, University of Virginia
                4:45-5:00 Wrap Up and Audience Discussion


5:00-5:15  Announcements (Dinner and Evening Event Logistics; Friday Morning)
Dinner on your own
7:30-9:00 Dessert Reception at the Garden Room on UVA Lawn
9:00-10:15 Candlelight Tours of UVA Grounds

FRIDAY, August 5

7:45-8:30 Breakfast
8:30 Announcements/Break-out Logistics
8:45-9:30 Breakout Session #1
                Breakout A:  Sustainable Freight Movement
                Breakout B:  Coastal Infrastructure Reliability
                Breakout C:  Reaching Underrepresented Groups
                Breakout D:  Technical Transfer
9:30-10:15  Breakout Session #2
                Breakout E:  Energy Efficient Urban Transportation
                Breakout F:  Preserving the Environment
                Breakout G:  Outreach and Collaboration—Internal and External; Academic and Agency
                Breakout H:  Technical Transfer
10:30-11:15  Breakout Session #3
                Breakout I:  Enhanced Water Quality Management
                Breakout J:  Sustainable Land Use Practices
                Breakout K:  Education
                Breakout L:  Technical Transfer
11:15-12:00 Breakout Reports

12:00-1:00 Boxed Lunches
1:00-4:00 Transportation Sustainability Workshop:  Mobile, Wearable Sensing for Sustainable Transportation Systems (Andrew Mondschein)

Information about the 2015 Annual Meeting can be found here.


Feature Story: Life Cycle Assessment: A Valuable Tool for Environmental Impact Analysis

Life cycle assessment (LCA) is an environmental accounting tool used to assess environmental impacts associated with the implementation of a product, service or system. It is essentially an environmental footprint analysis that provides a quantitative assessment of the life cycle of a product or service, often evaluating the environmental impacts of production, manufacturing, distribution, use and disposal.

“A very simple example of a question where LCA might be useful is the ‘paper versus plastic bag’ dilemma,” explained Lisa Colosi Peterson, PhD, a University of Virginia associate professor of civil and environmental engineering. Colosi Peterson is also the co-director of UVA’s LCA Laboratory where she uses LCA to evaluate sustainability for water and energy infrastructure, focusing particularly on algae-to-energy systems. “You need to make a decision about the best option in terms of having the least negative impact on the environment. LCA gives you the power, through modeling and quantitative analysis, to make an informed decision.”

“Take, for example, the issue of high fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions. If we want to achieve maximum fuel efficiencies, then LCA provides a systematic approach to understanding the scope of the problem, evaluating options, compiling an environmental inventory, and measuring impacts. It’s a robust approach to bench-marking and decision-making.”

Several years ago, she and UVA collaborators, Andres Clarens, PhD, and James Lambert, PhD, received funding from the Virginia Center for Transportation Innovation and Research (VCTIR) to explore how renewable fuel policies in Europe could affect Dulles International Airport and the affordability of trans-Atlantic flights. The study examined the readiness of Virginia and other states to achieve various European greenhouse gas targets, accounting for the economic and environmental impacts of converting available raw materials into biofuels. The LCA provided insight on the potential to develop a viable alternative jet fuel program in the southeast.

LCA is a valuable tool for any planners who are concerned about how the systems they implement will affect the environment. “LCA creates a common language around environmental impacts,” stated Colosi Peterson. “It’s not just for environmental engineers. It is a powerful tool for addressing sustainability and efficiency issues for any project that has environmental impacts.”

Dr. Colosi Peterson may be contacted at


Thirteen Presentations at TRB Related to MATS UTC

The following nine papers were all accepted for the 2016 Transportation Research Board Annual Meeting to be held January 10-14, 2016 in Washington, D.C. This meeting includes over 11,000 participants and over 500 technical sessions.   These papers were submitted for consideration by August 1, 2015 when the Center was a year old. We are excited about this success related to our one-year old University Transportation Center.

  • Green, A., H. Park, D. Recht, B. Smith, “Investigating Cost Savings Expected from Connected Vehicle-Enabled Applications:  Virtual Dynamic Message Sign System Case Study” A. Green worked on this paper as a MATS UTC Undergraduate Summer Researcher.
  • Babiceanu, S., D. Gonzales, E. Parkany, B. Hungate, “Assessing the Wider Economic Benefits of Intelligent Transportation System Deployments: A Virginia Case Study” D. Gonzales and B. Hungate worked on this paper as MATS UTC Undergraduate Summer Researchers.
  • Parkany, E, “Webinars, Advisory Boards, T2 Implementation Plans and other Examples of University Technical Transfer Best Practices” MATS UTC Managing Director E. Parkany wrote this based on experiences with the regional UTC.
  • Project: Structural Enhancements to Adapt to Impacts of Climate Change
    Khakimova, E., Sherif, M., Tanks, J. D., Ozbulut, O. E., Harris, D. K., Ozyildirim, H. C. “Feasibility of using shape memory alloys as fiber reinforcement in concrete.”
  • Project:  Enhancing Traffic Control Systems to Reduce Emissions and Fuel Consumption
    Chou, J. and A. Nichols, “Characterizing Emergency Vehicle Preemption Operation Using High-Resolution Traffic Signal Event Data”
    Hong, S., J. Hu, B. Park, “Development and Evaluation of Environmentally Sustainable Traffic Signal Warrant for Planning Application”
    Laguna A., Rakha H., and Du J. (2016), “Optimizing Isolated Traffic Signal Timing Considering Energy and Environmental Impacts,” Accepted for presentation at the 95th Transportation Research Board Annual Meeting, Washington DC, January 10-14. [Paper # 16-1092]
  •  Project: Multimodal Freight Distribution to Support Increased Port Operations
    Makahon, I, Cetin, M, Ng, M.W., Nguyen, D.T., “Unloading and Premarshalling Algorithms with Java Computer Animation for Terminal Yard Operations”
  •  Project: Virginia Sustainable Travel Choices: Effects of Land Use and Location on Current and Future Travel Options
    Mondschein, A. and E. Parkany, “Hitting the Sweet Spot: Variability in Commute Lengths and Vehicle Emissions across a Diverse State”
  • Project: Alternative Fuels Usage in Maritime Transportation Systems
    E. Carr, J. Corbett, “Assessment of Potential Emissions from LNG as a Marine Fuel in the Inland Rivers”
  • Project: Network-wide Impacts of Eco-routes and Route Choice Behavior/Evaluation of AERIS Applications
    Elhenawy M. and Rakha H. (2016), “Expected Travel Time and Reliability Prediction using Mixture Linear Regression,” Accepted for presentation at the 95th Transportation Research Board Annual Meeting, Washington DC, January 10-14. [Paper # 16-2813]
    Elhenawy M. and Rakha H. (2016), “Traffic Stream Speed Short-term Prediction using Machine Learning Techniques: I-66 Case Study,” Accepted for presentation at the 95th Transportation Research Board Annual Meeting, Washington DC, January 10-14. [Paper # 16-3805]
    Venkat Ala M., Yang H., and Rakha H. (2016), “Sensitivity Analysis of Eco-Cooperative Adaptive Cruise Control at Signalized Intersections,” Accepted for presentation at the 95th Transportation Research Board Annual Meeting, Washington DC, January 10-14. [Paper # 16-2891]

MATS UTC Summer Undergrad Researchers Visit VCTIR









Our nine summer undergraduate researchers for our Mid-Atlantic Transportation Sustainability University Transportation Center (MATS UTC) visited Virginia Center for Transportation Innovation and Research (VCTIR) on the UVA Grounds on Thursday, June 11th. VCTIR Director José Gomez started our visit with an overview of VCTIR and then we were led around several laboratories by Associate Director Michael Brown. Dr. Brown told us about activities in the Geotechnical, Concrete, and Asphalt Labs.

May 6 Green and Blue Highways Symposium (with Registration Links!)

Green & Blue Highways Symposium: Environmental Sustainability Best Practices for Transportation

Wednesday, May 6, 2015 from 9:30 am – 4:00 pm
VT Executive Briefing Center, 900 North Glebe Road, Arlington, VA

In person registration:

The current schedule is available as a PDF document:  Symposium Agenda and is posted below.  One Page Flyer

See below for webinar registration links.

On Wednesday, May 6, transportation experts from across the nation will gather at the Virginia Tech Executive Briefing Center in Arlington, Virginia to share ideas on transportation planning and engineering best practices that have the potential to impact the health of the environment. Convened by the Mid-Atlantic Transportation Sustainability Center Region 3 University Transportation Center (MATS UTC) and open to all, the symposium will provide a forum to consider “green” and “blue” approaches to infrastructure design and management within an economic, social and environmental framework.

“This symposium really provides the opportunity to envision the future of the green and blue highway transportation system as well as expose people to MATS UTC and get them thinking about transportation sustainability,” states Emily Parkany, P.E., Managing Director of MATS UTC. “When we gather together as practitioners, researchers, and policy makers, we can make significant strides in tackling sustainability issues from a wide variety of perspectives. The format of the symposium, which encourages interactive discourse among leading experts and participants, will inform interested parties as well as stimulate potential new collaborations and partnerships to address congestion, energy supply, environmental impacts and climate change, as well as other unmet transportation challenges.”

Brian Smith, P.E., Director of MATS UTC, agrees.  “Now is the time to focus on environmental sustainability. Building upon strong successful university/industry/agency partnerships, we have the ability to push research and education to create truly innovative offerings in transportation sustainability that have a direct impact on the mid-Atlantic region.”

Sessions will focus on identifying engineering best practices and strategic research needs in the areas of sustainable materials, asset management, sustainability rating systems, transportation and stormwater management, system resilience and transferring research to practice.  All sessions will be available as webinars (see below for registration links) and recorded sessions will be available after the meeting at

Elise Barrella, Ph.D., Assistant Professor in the Department of Engineering at James Madison University and the organizer of the event, hopes that the symposium turns ideas and research into action and implementation. “The interactive nature of the sessions is specifically intended to challenge people’s views about how we tackle sustainability issues. The transportation industry has a major impact on the environment yet it also has a huge opportunity to be a driving force in creating solutions.”

The in-person registration link is available here.  Registration includes a light breakfast and lunch. The event has been approved for professional development credit, including a certificate of completion.

The sessions have been divided into three free WEBINARS.  Please sign up for the webinars that interest you by clicking on the hyperlink for each webinar:

10am – 12pm: The Role of Rating Systems
12:45 – 2pm: Life Cycle and Asset Management
2:15 – 4pm: Blue Highways (Stormwater, Climate Impact, Resilience and General Discussion)

The current schedule is available as a PDF document Symposium AgendaOne Page Flyer

DRAFT AGENDA – Green & Blue Highways: Environmental Sustainability Best Practices for Transportation

Wednesday, May 6, 2015 10am-4pm

VT Executive Briefing Center, 900 North Glebe Road, Arlington, VA

9:30-10:00 Registration & Light Breakfast

10:00-10:45 Introduction (MATS UTC) & Keynote Speaker (Sustainability State of the Practice – Measuring and Monitoring – Dr. Josias Zietsman, Texas Transportation Institute & Chair of TRB Transportation Sustainability Committee)

10:45-11:15 Sustainability Rating Systems: Case Studies of FHWA’s INVEST (Dr. Connie Hill, FHWA Sustainable Transport and Climate Change Team)

11:15-11:45 Sustainability Rating Systems: Role in Advancing Environmental Sustainability (Dr. Gary McVoy, McVoy Associates LLC)

11:45-12:00 Discussion

12:00-12:45 Lunch

12:45-1:15 Sustainable Materials & Lifecycle Assessment (Georgene M. Geary, GGfGA Engineering, LLC)

1:15-1:45 Managing Transportation System Health/Asset Management (Dr. Gerardo Flintsch, Virginia Tech)

1:45-2:00 Discussion

2:00-2:15 Break

2:15-2:45 Blue Highways: Transportation and Stormwater Management (Ginny Snead, Louis Berger)

2:45-3:15 Climate Impacts and Resiliency of Transportation Network (Sam S. Belfield, Hampton Roads Transportation Planning Organization)

3:15-4:00 Discussion: Research Needs and Transferring Research to Practice

*Note: All Speakers and Titles Subject to Change

For more information, contact Elise Barrella at or 540-568-7621.

Two MATS UTC Workshops to be Offered by Transportation Training Academy

photo of a chalkboard with the word 'workshop'UVa’s Transportation Training Academy (TTA) is hosting two MATS UTC workshops this spring:

Overview of Transportation Sustainability, Charlottesville, April 14 (click here to visit the registration page)

Infrastructure Impacts of Sea Level Rise, Virginia Beach, May 5 (click here to visit the registration page)

Workshop fees will be $25 for local government staff, $50 for VDOT/feds, and $75 for private consultants.  More details to come.