The Virginia Tech Transportation Institute is among the Best of Research & Development in Virginia, according to Southern Business & Development magazine's Best of Economic Development in the American South edition. 

To compile the Best of Economic Development list, the magazine surveyed members of its Southern Economic Development Roundtable in January 2015. The group includes about 50 economic developers, educators, economists, site consultants, and chief executive officers in the south. 

“This accolade is really a testament to the energy and passion the institute as a whole puts into producing results that make a measurable impact on society,” said Tom Dingus, director of the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute. “For nearly three decades, we have worked tirelessly to create and enhance research and development efforts within the transportation community with a forward-thinking approach that has allowed us to anticipate the needs of not only our sponsors and partners, but the public as a whole.” 

Each edition of Best of Economic Development in the American South covers roughly 30 categories with the top three vote recipients for each rec­ognized and listed in alphabetical order. Other winners on the Virginia list included the Town of Blacksburg, named among the Best Tech Hubs in Virginia, and Virginia Tech football, named to the Virginia’s Best Sporting Events category. 

“We continually strive to exceed our goal of advancing transportation through innovation, with more than 475 employees and students who are dedicating their lives to that very objective,” said Jon Hankey, director of research and development at the transportation institute. “With over 300 active projects performed with about 100 sponsors and partners — including government agencies, auto manufacturers, and suppliers — we are helping find answers to today’s transportation challenges on state, national, and international levels while discovering opportunities for tomorrow.” 

Southern Business and Development has covered economic development in the Ameri­can south, the world’s fourth-largest economy, for more than 20 years. The magazine targets c-suite executive readers in key markets and states outside of the American south. States where readership is emphasized with each edition include Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania in the Northeast; Illinois, In­diana, Michigan, and Ohio in the Midwest; and California and Washington on the Pacific coast. Approximately 900 site consultant or Society of Industrial and Office Realtors members conducting business in the U.S. receive each edition. 

The Virginia Tech Transportation Institute has been in operation since 2000, growing each year to become the largest university-level transportation institute in the United States. The institute is largely known for its naturalistic driving studies, a method pioneered by Dingus and fellow engineers that involves equipping volunteer participants’ vehicles with unobtrusive cameras, radars, and sensors that provide real-world information about driver performance and behavior. To date, the institute houses nearly 2.5 petabytes of naturalistic driving data that cover light vehicles, trucks, motorcycles, and motorcoaches, with drivers ages 16 to 98. 

The institute and its partners recently finished the Second Strategic Highway Research Program Naturalistic Driving Study, funded by the National Academy of Sciences and covering more than 3,500 drivers across six data collection sites in the United States. The study resulted in more than 35 million miles of continuous naturalistic driving data, and new findings from the study are already providing a greater understanding of driver crash risk on a large scale. 

The institute also leads research projects into pavement, mobility, lighting, and tire vehicle modeling and simulation, with several researchers focusing their efforts into the development and deployment of the next generation of vehicular technology, including connected and automated vehicles.

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