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Open Access Publications from the University of California

A Mobile Platform for Roadway Incident Documentation

  • Author(s): Su, Ray J.
  • Chan, Ching-Yao
  • et al.

This report is part of the final report and the deliverables for TR0002, Collision Recording and Documentation, sponsored by California Office of Traffic Safety, and contracted through California Department of Transportation. Roadway incidents, especially collisions, often result in traffic congestion and travel delays, in addition to the direct damage to the vehicles and the injuries to the people involved. The subsequent congestion is mainly caused by stopped vehicles or lane closure, but it is often intensified by slowing vehicles with drivers observing the accident scene. The effects of these phenomena on the highway transportation system are significant in terms of their direct hazards and the associated losses in time delays, energy usage, and environmental impact. The subject discussed in this report focuses on the post-incident handling phase of the problem, with the intention to moderate roadway congestion and to enhance the safety of law-enforcing officers. The project is sponsored by the California Office of Traffic Safety, and conducted by California Partners for Advanced Transit and Highways (PATH) program with assistance from California Highway Patrol (CHP). The objective of the study is to develop application tools, represented by a combination of computer hardware and software that can be used by CHP to record, document, and analyze roadway incidents quickly and effectively. The key is to reduce the time spent by officers on the incident scene, thus resulting in a direct decrease in roadway blockage and/or traffic congestion. With the recent developments of powerful processors and low-cost electronics, there have been a large number of hand-held computers in circulation in the last few years. The portability and the low-cost features of such devices prompt us to envision that a hand-held computer is an excellent candidate for law-enforcement use, in particular for the type of applications that we have proposed. Our concept then evolves from a portable computer into an architecture that encompasses a collection of mobile platform with versatile software, wireless communication, and database functionality. In this report, we described the development process of an application tool that is intended for the use by law-enforcement officers. The application tool is targeted for information gathering at traffic accident scenes. The potential benefits lie in the resultant reduction of incident documentation time, and thus leading to a faster scene restoration, traffic resumption, and reduced congestion caused by roadway incidents or collisions. During the development of this tool, we have seriously considered the real-world concerns of users and communicated through several channels to ensure the desirable features are implemented properly. The focus was placed on the time saving and user-friendly requirements that are absolutely necessary for the tool's intended use. Initial efforts have resulted in a functional module that possesses text and graphics entry options, menu-driven displays, and a report retrieval database. Since the mobile platform is conceived as an integral component of an incident documentation system, it is structured adaptively for additions of other input and communication devices. The flexibility in the functionality of the tool presents a great potential to be used as a stand-alone module or to be coupled with expanded functions. As mentioned earlier, the usability of the basic application can be greatly enhanced by integrating input devices with the mobile platform. In the implementation described in this report, the tools that were used, such as the wireless devices, and the software options, such as operating systems and display presentations, were all adopted from the commercially available products. As a result, we demonstrated that an integration of commercial-off-the-shelf products can be a successful approach for the developments of incident handling tools. On the other hand, we should also realize that the evolution of hardware and software products occur very quickly. Therefore at any stage of deployment, extensive search and thorough evaluation of latest developments in related areas should be conducted. Devices that provide additional features and cost-effective options will prove to be more powerful and suitable choices for those tools deployed by future studies.

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