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U.S. Department of Transportation U.S. Department of Transportation Icon United States Department of Transportation United States Department of Transportation


Almost 60 years ago, the Federal Government began conducting human factors and driver behavior studies to understand the needs and limitations of transportation users under the Bureau of Public Roads, now the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA). Since then, the Human Factors Program has grown and evolved to meet the needs of the dynamic roadway environment.

The FHWA's Human Factors Team, with support from contractors, has performed numerous studies using a variety of research tools to gain a better understanding of the capabilities and limitations of drivers in the context of transportation infrastructure and improvements to enhance travel safety. Research topics have ranged from the development of new traffic control devices, to the potential safety benefits of cooperative driving automation warning systems, to novel intersection designs and signing.

The Evolution of Technology and Tools

The behavioral research tools within the FHWA Human Factors Laboratory have evolved over the years to meet the needs of the program. We strive to build upon existing tools with cutting edge updates and new capabilities. The timeline below provides a snapshot of the evolution of our main research tools over the years.

"This is a timeline of the evolution of research tools used by the FHWA Human Factors team. There are six research tools: the highway driving simulator, field research vehicles, sign laboratory, minisim driving simulator, virtual reality lab, and pedestrian dummies. It begins with the first Highway Driving Simulator in the 1970s and then was upgraded in the 2000s and then again in the 2010s. Next is the Field Research Vehicles (FRVs). The first FRV was in the 2000s, and then was upgraded twice in the 2010s. Next is the sign laboratory. It began in the 1990s and was upgraded twice in the 2010s. Next is the minisim driving simulator which started in the 2000s and was then upgraded twice in the 2010s. Next is the virtual reality (VR) lab. It was upgraded with a VR driver and a VR bike in the 2010s and then upgraded with an omnidirectional treadmill in the 2020s. Next is the pedestrian dummies that started with a single mannequin in the 2010s and then upgraded to three articulating dummies in the 2020s."
Source: FHWA