Montana State University

WTI lands grant to study hazard perception

December 8, 2011 -- MSU News Service

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MSU News Service
Tel: (406) 994-4571
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BOZEMAN - Montana State University's Western Transportation Institute is in the process of outfitting a new vehicle with eye-tracking sensors for research into the effectiveness of virtual reality training to increase driver's ability to perceive road hazards.

A $500,000 grant from the National Science Foundation is funding the research, said Laura Stanley, assistant professor of mechanical and industrial engineering at the MSU College of Engineering.

From a doctor reading a diagnostic scan to a pilot surveying an instrument panel to security screeners inspecting baggage at an airport you can't underestimate the skill of the trained eye, Stanley said.

The same is true for those driving a car. And when a person is relatively new to driving, the ability to identify potential hazards often isn't fully developed, Stanley said.

"Motor vehicle collisions are the leading cause of death for those between the ages of three and 33," Stanley said. "The findings from this project will seek to directly address - by way of improved virtual reality training programs - the major cause of teen crashes, namely the failure to anticipate hazards. If broadly implemented, it could have a significant impact on novice driving crash rates, and thus on roadway safety throughout the United States."

The research will be engaging a pair of PhD students, as well as two undergraduates. Stanley also stressed that her research team would be encouraging participation from those who often aren't involved in engineering studies.

"The research team will actively encourage minorities, such as Native Americans and women in engineering, to become involved in a growing research area that contributes to the fields of engineering and computer science," Stanley said.
Stanley said an additional $500,000 grant from the MJ Murdock Charitable Trust helped purchase and equip the new research vehicle, a Chevy Impala.

Laura Stanley, (406) 994-1399, or laura.stanley@coe.montana.edu