User-centered Smart Traffic Sign Development Study


Nichole Morris, Rajesh Rajamani, Bradley Drahos, Zhenming Xie, Lee Alexander, William Kessler

June 2023

Report no. MnDOT 2023-26

Flaggers protect workers by providing temporary traffic control and maintaining traffic flow through a work zone. They are often the first line of defense to stop distracted, inattentive, or aggressive motorists from intruding into the work area. This project aims to develop an automated intrusion detection system to alert drivers who are unsafely approaching or entering a flagger-controlled work zone. A human factors user needs assessment found maintenance workers preferred a modified traffic signal to feature the alert system due to flagger risks of being in the roadway and drivers failing to stop and remain stopped when presented with the STOP side of the flagger sign. A modified traffic signal that could be operated using a handheld remote was developed. The low-cost embedded electronics on the traffic signal enabled it to track trajectories of nearby vehicles, detect potential intrusions, and trigger audio-visual warnings to alert the intruding driver. Usability testing in a simulated driving test found poor expectancies and stopping rates of the traffic signal-based alarm system compared to a traditional flagger but did demonstrate evidence that drivers may be less likely to stop and remain stopped with the flagger STOP sign than the red ball indicator of the traffic signal. Furthermore, some drivers corrected their initial stopping error after triggering the auditory alarm of the traffic signal. A follow up test found improved performance with the alert system incorporated into an audiovisual enhanced STOP/SLOW flagger paddle. Testing of the developed sensor system found the system capable of simultaneous multivehicle tracking (including estimation of vehicle position, velocity, and heading) with a range of up to 60 meters and angular azimuth range of 120 degrees and correctly detecting all test intruding vehicles.

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