The National Academies

NCHRP 03-124 [Final]

Principles and Guidance for Presenting Drivers with Dynamic Information on Active Traffic Management

  Project Data
Funds: $749,939
Research Agency: Battelle Memorial Institute
Principal Investigator: Christian Richard
Effective Date: 11/3/2016
Completion Date: 5/2/2019

The objective of this research is to develop principles and guidance for presenting drivers with dynamic information that can be frequently updated based on real-time conditions. These principles and guidance should improve the effectiveness of ATM strategies, which includes systems to manage congestion, incidents, weather, special events, and work zones. The research is expected to explore the following critical questions:
  • What information related to ATM strategies does a driver want and need? What characteristics are associated with this information (e.g., reliability, timeliness)?
  • How much information can a driver process via the complementary and contrasting modalities (e.g., visual, auditory), given the context and distractions?
  • What existing and potential media could be used to deliver this information? Media that are under the control of transportation agencies (e.g., electronic signs) are of primary interest but alternative and innovative media (e.g., in-vehicle displays, cell phone applications, geographic information systems) and their evolving capabilities and roles must be examined.
  • Given a particular message and medium, what are effective ways to prioritize, format, and present the information to achieve a desired and safe response by drivers?
  • How can an agency evaluate the return on investment of an ATM infrastructure or information technology decision?
  • How can an agency balance the needs of drivers and the infrastructure costs, including maintenance and operations?

NCHRP Web-Only Document 286: Principles and Guidance for Presenting Active Traffic Management Information to Drivers has been published.

Task 1. Provide NCHRP with the technical, managerial, and administrative resources necessary to support Project 03-124, as well as feedback and control processes to ensure that technical, cost, and schedule objectives are met.
Task 2. Plan for and conduct a kick-off meeting within 1 month of contract award.
Task 3. Analyze, describe, and critique relevant research on driver information needs associated with ATM. Include current practices by transportation agencies, both domestic and international.
Task 4. Identify and prioritize critical research gaps.
Task 5. Develop a detailed work plan that describes the rationale, objectives, technical approach, and procedures for the research that will be conducted in Tasks 7 and 8.
Task 6. Develop and submit an interim report that summarizes the findings of Tasks 1 through 5, provides an updated work plan for the subsequent tasks, and suggests an outline of the guidance and design principles that will be generated in this project.
Task 7. Carry out the research described in the Task 6 interim report, as modified during the discussion at the interim meeting, and approved by the NCHRP.
Task 8. Analyze the research data and develop principles and guidance for presenting drivers with dynamic ATM information.
Task 9. Develop and submit the final deliverables, as described in the Task 6 interim report.
Active traffic management (ATM) brings together operational strategies and a philosophy to manage highway network conditions in order to improve efficiency and reduce system congestion. ATM provides the ability to dynamically and proactively manage recurrent and non-recurrent congestion on an entire facility based on real-time conditions. These strategies include, but are not limited to, adaptive ramp metering, adaptive traffic signal control, dynamic junction control, dynamic lane reversal/contraflow lane reversal, dynamic lane use control, dynamic merge control, dynamic shoulder lanes, dynamic speed limits, queue warning, and transit signal priority. Deployment of ATM strategies has led to the creation of new graphical and text-based displays to deliver dynamic information to drivers. These information displays are designed to garner attention quickly to allow sufficient opportunity to make and carry out decisions in a safe and timely manner, but they can also increase the driving workload and contribute to driver errors. This may be compounded when drivers have to interpret and respond to multiple user information displays that are used when combinations of ATM strategies are deployed on a facility. To date, there is a lack of consistency and standardization in the design and deployment of ATM user interfaces and the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices contains limited material on the devices used.  At the same time as these strategies are being deployed, drivers are increasingly using a broad range of methods to obtain information on the state of the transportation system. These methods can complement the information provided by agency infrastructure but can also add to driver distraction. Research is needed on how these multiple communications channels can be effectively and safely deployed.

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