Virginia Tech researchers seek to reduce vehicle deer collisions - WNEM TV 5

Virginia Tech researchers seek to reduce vehicle deer collisions

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The Virginia Smart Road in Blacksburg is one of two locations research is being done to prevent or mitigate animal vehicle collisions. The Virginia Smart Road in Blacksburg is one of two locations research is being done to prevent or mitigate animal vehicle collisions.
BLACKSBURG (WSLS) - If you encounter deer on daily travels, you know the fear that can often come when you see them on the side of the road. Researchers are working on a way to help give you a heads up before a collision in an effort to prevent or mitigate animal vehicle collisions (AVC).

The Virginia Tech Transportation Institute in Blacksburg is using local drivers to help collect data. There are nearly 40 cars on the roads right now equipped with VTTI sensors. Participants are drivers who normally travel in areas where they are exposed to an elevated likelihood of AVC occurrences.

The sensors track "naturalistic" driving habits so if a driver in his own vehicle encounters a deer, their interaction would be recorded so researchers could see the response before or during an animal vehicle conflict. The unobtrusive data acquisition systems installed in their vehicle records continuous driving data including forward and driver videos.

"There are sensors on cars to help with other safety systems on a vehicle-- cameras, radar," said Senior Research Associate Andy Alden. "Those same systems may be able to be used to identify animals in the roadway or pedestrians."

The ultimate goal is to develop new technology to help address the problem of deer and vehicle collisions better.

Toyota is a sponsor of the research and is using the data collected to develop its own safety systems using similar sensor systems.

A second "experimental" mode of collection includes VTTI employees who intentionally drive in high exposure areas prime times, like at dusk or dawn, with the intent of encountering and recording large animal interactions with approaching vehicles. The information collection will take place in two vehicles, one in Virginia and a second in an area of the western United States where elk and moose are prevalent

VTTI will collect data through the end of the year.

The institute is also working on a separate study with the Virginia Department of Transportation looking at a sensor system buried in the roadway that could potentially alert drivers through signs or ultimately in their vehicles, of a crossing deer. The Omnitrax buried cable detection system detects the crossing of large animals and provides data on their location along the length of the buried cable. It uses cable-guided radar to detect the presence of an animal within a 3 m wide corridor along the length of the installation, according to VTTI.

Omnitrax is being tested on the Virginia Smart Road in Blacksburg. It lies in a largely undeveloped and heavily wooded area in which deer, bear, coyote, turkey, and other wild animals are frequently observed.

Data will be analyzed to determine performance and suitability for use on Virginia public roads. The system will be integrated within the Connected Vehicle test-bed on the Smart Road which will demonstrate the ability to provide in-vehicle alerts to drivers approaching areas where animals at the roadside have been detected, VTTI said.

Researchers say animal-vehicle conflicts common and a significant safety and environmental problem on America's 3.9 million miles of roads. VTTI reports property damage costs exceed $4 billion/year annually and that does not include related costs such as medical care, crash management, animal carcass management, and those related to traffic delays, emergency management, litigation, or damage to infrastructure.

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