BUFFALO, N.Y. ─ Traffic is light as you merge on the
highway. But a few miles ahead, near a busy intersection, it starts
to snow and cars are spinning off the road.
The risk for an accident has increased greatly. You should
slow down or exit the highway.
That’s the message from your vehicle, which is connected
to a data mining system that tracks real-time traffic via cameras,
toll barriers and other devices. While not available yet, such a
system is under development at the University at Buffalo, which
leads a research group that recently received a $1.4 million grant
to develop high-tech solutions for our nation’s
Awarded by the U.S. Department of Transportation, the grant is a
significant boost for UB’s new Institute for Sustainable
Transportation and Logistics. It will fund multi-disciplinary
research that utilizes data fusion and, ultimately, improves the
safety and efficiency of our highways, transit systems and other
transportation system components.
“Our goal is to gather and analyze the wealth of data
being collected by GPS units, smartphones and other devices,”
said Adel Sadek, PhD, UB civil engineer and the lead investigator.
“We’ll then use this information to enhance the safety,
sustainability, economic competitiveness and resiliency of our
transportation system, and to inform transportation
Big data is a term used to describe data sets that are too large
and too complex to process using traditional methods. As a result,
researchers build computer models that sort, or “mine,”
the information to find relevant correlations.
Sadek, professor in UB’s Department of Civil, Structural
and Environmental Engineering, applies the method to transportation
systems. For example, he is working on a model that mines historic
data and considers current conditions to predict future border
crossing delays. Another model provides motorists with directions
designed to limit greenhouse gas emissions from their vehicle.
As described earlier, another component of using big data to
solve transportation problems involves outfitting vehicles with
systems that observe road conditions and other pertinent data. The
vehicles then send data to a processing center, which analyzes it
and replies to the vehicles with useful information, such as to
avoid ice-covered roads.
An example of this is underway in the Buffalo Niagara region.
CUBRC, a not-for-profit research corporation based in Cheektowaga,
has equipped hundreds of vehicles with cameras and sensors that aim
to gain a better understanding of the interaction between the
driver, vehicle and road conditions.
CUBRC will collaborate with UB and the institutes of higher
learning funded by the grant ─ Rensselaer Polytechnic
Institute, George Mason University and the University of Puerto
Rico at Mayaguez ─ to analyze the data to better understand
traffic safety and driver behavior.
The grant, which recognizes UB as one of 33 University
Transportation Centers nationwide, comes months after UB
established the Institute for Sustainable Transportation and
Logistics, a joint effort between UB’s School of Engineering
and Applied Sciences and its School of Management.
The institute is one of 10 initiatives created via the
university’s 2012-13 E-Fund program.
“The grant follows a substantial new investment by UB in
specific high-impact, high-return strategic initiatives that are
responsive to NY SUNY 2020 and UB priorities,” said Liesl
Folks, engineering school dean. “This new collaborative
research program will allow UB and its partners to make a
significant impact in this area of national concern.”