Automated Truck Mounted Attenuator: Phase 2 Performance Measurement and Testing
Truck-Mounted Attenuators (TMAs) are energy-absorbing devices added to heavy shadow vehicles to provide a mobile barrier that protects work crews from errant vehicles entering active work zones. In mobile and short duration operations, drivers manually operate the TMA, keeping pace with the work zone as needed to function as a mobile barrier protecting work crews. While the TMA is designed to absorb and/or redirect the energy from a colliding vehicle, there is still significant risk of injury to the TMA driver when struck. TMA crashes are a serious problem in Virginia, where they have increased each year from 2011 (17 crashes) to 2014 (45 crashes), despite a decrease in the number of active construction sites between 2013 and 2014. Although various efforts have been made to improve TMA vehicle crashworthiness (e.g., by adding interior padding, harnesses, and supplemental head restraints), the most effective way to protect TMA drivers may be to remove them from the vehicle altogether. Recent advances in automated vehicle technologies—including advanced sensing, high-precision differential GPS, inertial sensing, advanced control algorithms, and machine learning—have enabled the development of automated systems capable of controlling TMA vehicles. Furthermore, the relatively low operating speeds and platoon-like operating movements of leader-follower TMA systems make an automated control concept feasible for a variety of mobile and short-duration TMA use cases without the cost or complexity of full autonomy. This project seeks to develop an automated control system for TMA vehicles using a short following distance, leader-follower control concept which will remove the driver from the at-risk TMA.