Mohamed Abdel-Aty and his team of 20 student researchers hope their work will make roads safer for drivers.

The Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) awarded the professor and chair of the UCF Department of Civil, Environmental and Construction Engineering a $2 million grant to collect real-time traffic data from sections of interstates to determine traffic patterns when foggy conditions exist.

The grant raises UCF’s grant total to more than $4.5 million for transportation-related research in the past two years, mostly from FDOT and the U.S. Department of Transportation (supporting UCF’s four University Transportation Centers). The team is intent on not only helping to predict the occurrence of fog, but also delivering real-time information to drivers.

“Phase II: Real Time Monitoring and Prediction of Reduced Visibility Events on Florida’s Highways” expands Phase I work that investigated the use of meteorological and traffic data in real time to identify the unique characteristics – the “fingerprint” – of fog formation in Florida. Phase II, a two-year project, involves a more comprehensive use of intelligent transportation system devices (radar and microwave sensors) to collect data and perform analyses.

The goal: anticipate when fog will strike and prevent accidents.

Streams of traffic data will be captured for each vehicle per lane – including travel speed and vehicle class – and analyzed by UCF. Next, a simulator at UCF (the MiniSim™) and state of-the-art software will test how drivers of various demographic profiles react to different methods of messaging.

“It’s going to be a comprehensive study, looking at the whole problem from all possible angles,” said Abdel-Aty, a frequent international speaker on the topic and editor of Accident Analysis & Prevention, the premier journal for transportation safety research.

The team’s efforts encompass one of four research-focused University Transportation Centers, all operated under UCF’s Center for Advanced Transportation Systems Simulation, established in 1998.

“This is the ultimate – if you could save one life,” said Abdel-Aty, who has lost two close family members to traffic-related events.