Work Zone Safety: Behavioral Analysis with Integration of VR and Hardware in the Loop


According to the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), work zone fatalities at road construction projects account for up to 3% of all workplace fatalities in a given year. A study of work zone crash data in five states showed that around half of the crashes occur within or adjacent to work activities, putting workers in serious danger. One of the main proactive approaches adopted by construction companies to prevent these incidents is safety training courses, which are designed to help increase awareness of hazards around the job sites. However, work zone safety knowledge from training courses is not enough to change the level of vigilance of workers, which is easily affected by factors such as fatigue or environmental distractions.

Thus, there is a need for an VR integrated hardware in the loop (HIL)-based simulation platform that can be used to study workers’ interactions with roadside units as well as connected vehicles, and their responses to notifications with the purpose of reducing incidents involving workers on urban street and on highways. This enables development and testing of different warning strategies on a physical real-world hardware deployment, thus, helping us analyze the constraints and delays associated with the warnings and messages exchanged with such physical hardware. This project aims to understand the key parameters that play a role in achieving responsive behaviors in workers.  Through wearable sensors and representations of traffic loads from real data acquired from hardware in the loop systems and work zones in virtual reality, data on workers’ behavioral and physiological responses to warnings issued under various realistic scenarios and varying warning mechanisms will be studied.

Research Objectives

This project aims to enhance the VR environment including the hardware in the loop component to simulate the traffic loads and data using real data streaming from HIL. Specifically:

  • Understand the challenges in integrating the messages and warnings generated from real hardware (sensors, RSUs) transmitted to the simulated VR environment using a HIL-interface, the design of such interface is part of our objectives.
  • Define the key factors that influence the reaction of workers in and around work zones to warning notifications received from the installed sensors along those from the virtual environment.
  • Evaluate the effectiveness of wearable sensors and virtual reality, study the delays associated with warnings from the hardware component and determine the key factors that influence the reactions of workers to notifications.

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Associate Professor, NYU

Semiha Ergan is the Principal Investigator on this project.


Assistant Professor, Western Washington University

Junaid Khan is a Co-Principal Investigator on this project.

Kaan Ozbay

Director, C2SMART Professor, NYU

Kaan Ozbay is a Collaborator on this project.

Dan Lu

Researcher, NYU

Dan Lu is a Researcher on this project.

Zhengbo Zou

Assistant Professor, University of British Columbia

Zhengbo Zou is a Researcher on this project.

Suzana Duran Bernardes

Researcher, NYU

Suzana Duran Bernardes is a Researcher on this project.

Yubin Shen

Assistant Research Engineer, C2SMART Center

Yubin Shen is an Researcher on this project.