Researcher spotlight: Brian Davis
Brian Davis is a research fellow with the Department of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Minnesota (U of M) and a researcher for the Roadway Safety Institute. His interests focus on using emerging technologies, or established technologies in new ways, to create novel solutions that improve the safety and efficacy of the transportation system. This work has included the development and integration of systems such as GPS/GNSS, cellular networks, LIDAR, radar, embedded computing, machine learning, and computer vision for applications in roadway mapping, driver assist and lane-departure warning, vehicle tracking, work-zone safety, and connected vehicles.
Davis is currently working on a technology transfer project centered on the Teen Driver Support System (TDSS) smartphone app—an app designed to help teen drivers by providing real-time, in-vehicle feedback if they engage in risky driving behaviors and reporting those behaviors to parents if teens disregard the system warnings. In a field operational test involving 300 newly licensed Minnesota teens, the TDSS app was recently evaluated and found to be effective in reducing risky behaviors in teen drivers. Davis says the work is now focusing on updating the app’s name and appearance, enhancing and refining some of its features, and identifying partners interested in continuing to develop and deploy the system.
Another technology transfer effort Davis helped facilitate was two workshops on mobile LIDAR scanning held in Minnesota last winter for public transportation and GIS professionals (see related article).
Davis holds bachelor and master of science degrees in mechanical engineering from the U of M. Always interested in transportation, Davis had the opportunity in graduate school to work with ME professor (and current RSI director) Max Donath on a project with the Intelligent Vehicles Lab. He enjoyed the work—so much so, that he accepted a full-time position afterwards.
“I like performing research in the intelligent transportation field because it involves working on challenging problems whose solutions allow me to work with a wide variety of technologies,” he says.
One emerging transportation challenge is how best to ensure the safety of travelers as automated and autonomous vehicles begin to enter the fleet in more significant numbers, Davis says. “It will be important to understand and quantify the risks of using these vehicles and in doing so, develop meaningful safety standards for these systems. This could involve evaluating these systems in different environments to better characterize sensor limitations, working to ensure the human-machine interface is intuitive and provides enough information for the driver to take over in an emergency, and developing methods to detect and mitigate cyber-security issues with connected vehicles.”