UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — A team of five Penn State civil engineering graduate students recently won the 2017 Traffic Control Device Challenge sponsored by the Transportation Research Board and the American Traffic Safety Services Association (ATSSA).
The purpose of the challenge was to promote innovation and stimulate ideas within the traffic control devices research area, with the goal of improving operations and safety. This year’s focus was on traffic control device designs, ideas, enhancements and standards that supported advanced vehicle technologies, connected vehicles or autonomous vehicles.
The team, which included Owen Hitchcock, Kristin Kersavage, Lingyu Li, Joyce Liang and Xu Lin, developed an electronic beacon that helps guide autonomous vehicles through work zones without the use of pavement markings.
“Autonomous vehicles rely on pavement markings for lane guidance, but work zones often have poor pavement markings,” said Hitchcock. “This issue hinders the widespread adoption of autonomous vehicles.”
The team had to create a poster that communicated their ideas and present it at the Transportation Research Board’s annual meeting, held Jan. 8 to 12 in Washington, D.C.
Submissions were evaluated based on four criteria: ability of the idea to address the problem, ease of understanding, applicability and feasibility for implementation.
“We felt proud to represent Penn State as the winner of the competition,” said Hitchcock. “When we entered, we hoped to win. So from the very beginning, we were focused on producing a quality entry.”
As the first-place winner, the team will present their concept in a “Traffic Talk” at the ATSSA Convention and Traffic Expo, set for Feb. 12 to 14 in Phoenix, Arizona. The team will also receive a $1,500 cash prize and a plaque.
The Traffic Control Device Challenge is open to individual high school, junior college, college or university students or teams of students with an interest in transportation and an understanding of traffic control devices.