The Virginia Tech Transportation Institute has signed a five-year collaborative agreement with the largest transportation research group in the world, the Paris-based French Institute of Science and Technology for Transport, Development and Networks.

The agreement with the French institute, known as IFSTTAR for short, allows for sharing of information and collaborative research on such topics as connected vehicle technology, effects of street lighting on motorists and related “pollution” along roadways, naturalistic driving studies of motorists, and traffic modeling.

“The hope is that we will work together to accelerate our mission of saving lives, saving time and saving money,” said Tom Dingus, director of the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute and an endowed professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the College of Engineering at Virginia Tech.

“There are many innovations occurring in Europe and around the world that we can learn from. For example, the fatality rate per mile traveled for many European countries, including France, is about half of what it currently is in the United States.”

IFSTTAR is not only European’s largest research institute dedicating to researching driving, transportation and roadway infrastructure issues, it is the largest of its kind in the world. The Virginia Tech Transportation Institute already has collaborated with IFSTTAR in the past on research projects, and the five-year agreement is a continuation of those efforts, said Jon Hankey, senior associate director for research and development at the transportation institute. “The agreement allows [the institute] access not just to Paris, but France and all of Europe,” he said.

Similar to the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute, IFSTTAR receives a bulk of its funding from governmental agencies, but also receives operating monies from private organizations and industry.

The agreement – signed this past summer in Paris -- comes as the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute celebrates its 25th anniversary and continues to expand its international reach outreach efforts to include Australia, Canada, China, Mexico, several South American nations, countries in the Middle East, and several Europe nations, including Finland, Hungary, and Italy.

IFSTTAR works across the European Union and is involved in a new, multi-national project to study the behaviors of motorists as they drive in natural settings, focusing – as has Virginia Tech – on driver distraction and the effect of fatigue on motorists.

Virginia Tech already has thousands of hours of data related to its own large-scale naturalistic driving research project, and algorithms that could help break IFSTTAR and its partner research groups as they collect and analyze data from their own study.

Virginia Tech Transportation Institute researchers are interested in IFSTTAR’s work on traffic modeling, its precise work on GPS modeling for drivers, and the use of traffic cameras to not only record cars, trucks, and the like but also track weather conditions on roads – such as heavy fog that reduces visibility or rain-flooded streets, said Ron Gibbons, director for the transportation institute’s Center for Infrastructure-Based Safety Systems.

“They’re working to build relationships internationally, and so are we,” Gibbons added. “The sharing of technology through these relationships allows us to advance our research programs faster with higher returns.”

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