Center for Injury Research and Prevention

Transportation Technology & Safe Mobility Research

Transportation technology is advancing at a rapid pace. This presents CIRP, for whom a key objective is to prevent and minimize transportation-related injury among children and youth, both challenges to- and opportunities for safety.  We have been building partnerships and expertise to ensure that that safety of children, youth and other vulnerable population are considered as communities and industry make advances to their transportation technology.

A significant partner in this emerging area of research for CIRP is University of Pennsylvania’s Mobility 21, a U.S. Department of Transportation-funded University Transportation Center (UTC) that addresses mobility challenges spanning multiple modes of transportation.  With Penn Mobility 21, CIRP explores smart city technologies; connected and autonomous vehicles; improved transportation access to disadvantaged neighborhoods; multi-modal traveling (including pedestrian and bicycle); assistive technologies for people with disabilities; data modeling for monitoring traffic control systems; and regional planning to establish priorities and aid transportation deployment.

Safety Access and Accessiblity 

Wayfinders Research, New York City

Mobility21 examines the role of autonomous technologies to improve accessibility and mobility for specific populations and to ensure that they are safe and reliable. They organize their portfolio of research in a way that is most beneficial to mobility and safety in Philadelphia, in Pennsylvania, and then more broadly.

  • CIRP is particularly interested in research on designing complete, safe, urban and intercity transportation networks. The “first and last mile” connections along these networks-- the small yet critically important trips that connect travelers from their true destinations to the busses, trains, and subways that link destinations together– are often poorly planned and difficulty to navigate, particular for those living with disabilities and the elderly. Because the gap between a traveler’s front door and the closest transit stop is a barrier to those travelers using the transportation system to its full potential, we focus on designing complete safe networks.

Focus on the Edge Conditions of Transportation Technology

CIRP researchers also want to understand ‘edge conditions’ of autonomous technologies for transportation beyond which a given technology does not perform as intended. Technology designed for adults might not work well for children, for example. We want to help provide the scientific foundation on which they can design technology with children and other vulnerable populations in mind.

Current Areas of Safe Mobility Research

  • Trends in School-Age Pedestrian and Pedacyclist Crashes in the USA: 26 states, 2000-201-- Despite substantial progress, car crashes still remain a leading killer of children in the United States. By studying police-reported crash data from 26 states and calculating population rates of pedestrian and pedalcyclist crashes, crash fatality rates, and pedestrian commuter-adjusted crash rates for school-age children as compared with other groups, this study expands our analysis of US trends in crashes involving school-age pedestrians and pedalcyclists. Principal Investigator: Allison E. Curry, PhD, MPH, CIRP senior scientist and director of epidemiology and biostatistics; Funding: National Institutes of Health
  • Safe Urban Mobility: A User-Based Safety Analysis of the Chestnut Street Bike Lane --  American cities are becoming more multimodal. Yet the increasing number of cyclists and pedestrians has led to a rise in conflicts and crashes. This research project collects user-based information on these vulnerable road users using Eye Tracking Glasses, thereby 1.) enabling the study of the new protected bike lane on Chestnut Street in West Philadelphia/University City and 2.) assisting the City of Philadelphia in deploying safe urban infrastructure. Principal Investigator: Megan S. Ryerson, PhD, CIRP senior fellow; Funding: University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine
  • Design of Safe, Navigable, Intermodal Terminals -- In collaboration with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), Penn Mobility21 is leading an analysis of users’ visual experience to understand how AirTrain riders navigate intermodal connections between Penn Station and JFK Airport. The Wayfinders project addresses the idea that a hard-to-navigate intermodal terminal can discourage people from using transit for their trip. The network is only as complete as its weakest link.  This project aims to produce quantifiable data towards understanding how users of the AirTrain navigate the connection between AirTrain and linking transit services: the Long Island Railroad and the Subway. Eye tracking glasses gather data about users’ eye movement, gaze, and pupil dilation to provide a data-driven analysis of users’ experience and interaction with existing design elements in the environment--  following a route that begins at Penn Station and ends at Jamaica Station before connecting through to access the AirTrain.  Findings will equip the Port Authority with a series of recommendations and wayfinding practices, particularly geared to vulnerable users such as the elderly and people living with disabilities, and plans for application in the current, and future, AirTrain developments. Principal Investigator: Megan S. Ryerson, PhD, CIRP senior fellow; Funding: Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. 

Read about pedestrian safety in our Research In Action blog.

Read a Penn News story about our safe mobility research.