The Virginia Tech Transportation Institute or VTTI, is one of the research arms of Virginia Tech that was created to answer national challenges in regards to transportation research. They conduct research in order to save lives, time, money and protect the environment.
One of the most interesting things going on at VTTI is the Smart Road. It is a state of the art, closed test facility that is owned by the Virginia DOT, but managed by VTTI. As you'll see below, there isn't much that they can't test on the Smart Road.
Smart Road Features Include:
- A 2.2-mile, controlled-access test track built to interstate standards
- Two paved lanes
- Three bridges, including the Smart Road Bridge (the tallest state-maintained bridge in Virginia)
- Full-time staff that coordinate all road activities
- 24/7 access control and oversight
- Centralized communications
- Lighting and weather system controls
- Safety assurance and surveillance
- Fourteen pavement sections, including an open-grade friction course
- In-pavement sensors (e.g., moisture, temperature, strain, vibration, weigh-in-motion)
- Zero-crown pavement section designed for flooded pavement testing
- An American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO)-designated surface friction testing facility
- Seventy-five weather-making towers accessible on crowned and zero-crown pavement sections
- Artificial snow production of up to four inches per hour (based on suitable weather conditions)
- Production of differing intensities of rain with varying droplet sizes
- Fog production
- Two weather stations with official NOAA weather available within one mile
- Variable pole spacing designed to replicate 95 percent of national highway systems
- Multiple luminaire heads, including light-emitting diode (LED) modules
- A wireless mesh network variable control (i.e., luminaire dimming)
- A high-bandwidth fiber network
- A differential GPS base station
- Complete signal phase and timing (SPaT) using remote controls
- Wide shoulders for safe maneuvering during experimental testing
The Center for Truck and Bus Safety at VTTI is working on our behalf as truckers to find safer and healthier ways to go about doing our jobs everyday. They test commercial vehicles on the smart road in all types of weather conditions with just about every variable you can imagine. We're already benefiting from their research because much of what goes into training modules across the country comes directly from here. Check out this link to see some of what they've contributed to commercial vehicle safety.
The below picture is of a Freightliner Cascadia being tested on the Smart Road.