University of Massachusetts Amherst

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Lieutenant Governor Polito Tries Human Performance Lab Driving Simulator at 2016 Moving Together Conference

Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito

Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito

The Arbella Insurance Human Performance Laboratory received another shot of good publicity on September 29 at the 2016 Moving Together Conference, which brings together transportation leaders and individuals involved in the areas of planning, public health, bike and pedestrian safety, transit, advocacy, elected office, law enforcement, and education. At that event, Massachusetts Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito visited the HPL booth to try her hand at the lab’s groundbreaking driving simulator – a PC-based program that trains drivers to anticipate potential roadway hazards and to maintain their attention on the forward roadway.

“Just wanted to share the nice publicity that the HPL’s driving simulators received yesterday at the Moving Together Conference in Boston,” said Tracy Zafian, lab manager and research fellow at HPL, on the day after the event. “Lieutenant Governor Polito stopped by our booth and tried our systems out for herself.”

“The Lieutenant Governor seemed pretty impressed,” commented Michael Knodler, the director the UMass Transportation Center and the assistant director of the HPL. “All I can say is, ‘wow!’ The HPL was so impressive at the Moving Together 2016 Conference. The feedback I continued to get throughout the day (and after) was that our booth was the place to be. It was great exposure for the lab and the Transportation Center.”

The HPL is a multi-disciplinary research facility at UMass Amherst, based in the Mechanical and Industrial Engineering Department. Since the HPL’s founding in the 1980s, the lab’s research has focused on driver behavior and driver safety.

The HPL also developed Distractology 101, based on a driving-simulator program designed to teach novice drivers the dangers of distracted driving. To date, the life-saving Distractology program, developed by engineers at UMass Amherst for the Arbella Insurance Foundation, has brought a 36-foot-long, mobile-classroom trailer outfitted with the HPL’s high-tech driving simulators to more than 11,000 young drivers in high schools throughout New England. Distractology 101 is a powerful program that teaches inexperienced drivers about the dangers of distracted driving. The program consists of a 45-minute instructional learning experience behind the wheel of a driving simulator combined with a 20-minute web reinforcement of what the students learned inside the trailer.

In the past, Distractology 101 hand the HPL have been featured on the Bloomberg Business Wire, Today Show, the Boston Globe, the Washington Post, and hundreds of other newspapers, TV shows, and websites.

The Moving Together Conference was an event staged by the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) and GreenDOT, MassDOT’s comprehensive sustainability policy that promotes the healthy transportation modes of walking, bicycling, and transit. (October 2016)