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ORNL will help Atlanta move people quickly to Summer Olympic Games

Visitors to the 1996 Summer Olympic Games in Atlanta hope to avoid the rat race and find a parking space. Through development of "smart" cars and up-to-date traveler information displays, regional scientists hop e to help at least some of Atlanta's visitors.

Researchers at the Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) are working with industrial, government, and university partners to reduce traffic congestion and help travelers avoid it in Atlanta next summer. The effort is receiving U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) funds designated for the development of the Intelligent Transportation System (ITS).

ORNL is participating in a partnership that is setting up a field operational test planned for 1996 in Atlanta. The goals are to reduce traffic congestion in Atlanta and to get people to their destinations as quickly and safely as possible.

ORNL is a member of the $7.5-million Southeast Region Partnership led by Scientific-Atlanta, Inc., and funded by the Federal Highway Administration, an agency of DOT. Scientific-Atlanta is a communications company whose task is to develop and provide real-time electronic traffic information and advice to Atlanta drivers and other travelers.

On April 18, 1994, speaking in Atlanta, DOT Secretary Federico Pena said that the city will be a showcase of his department's efforts to drive the nation to the forefront in development of ITS technology. "We can no longer afford as a nation to solve congestion by simply building more roads," Pena said.

ORNL's expertise in human factors research-specifically, identifying the most effective ways to display and communicate nuclear reactor control information to human operators-will be called upon in the partnership's development of the wireless Atlanta Driver Advisory System (ADAS). Richard J. Carter, a psychologist in ORNL's Computer Science and Mathematics Division and the Laboratory's principal investigator for the partnership, says that ORNL will develop traveler information displays for 200 test vehicles and booths at the Atlanta airport, bus and train stations, hotels, malls, and the Olympic Village and its parking lots.

Working with Carter on this project at ORNL is Frank Barickman, a recent graduate of Gannon University in Erie, Pa., and a newly hired employee in the division's Cognitive Systems and Human Factors Group.

Adapting technology developed for helicopters for defense purposes, Scientific-Atlanta will equip 200 vehicles with on-board navigation systems that display real-time traffic and routing information. The navigation systems and a traffic information control center will communicate by radio signals as part of Atlanta's Advanced Traffic Management System (ATMS). Signals from road sensors and satellites will help the control center pinpoint each driver's location in respect to known traffic bottlenecks so it can suggest alternate routes.

"ORNL will design the displays and develop the computer software to transform digital data into words, icons, and maps that will appear on the display panels in cars and kiosks," Carter says. "We will use available hardware for kiosks and panel displays and develop software for it."

The kiosks, he notes, will tell travelers about the Olympics events of the day and will provide advice on how to get to the Olympic Village quickly and where to park. The displays in cars and trucks will offer five levels of real-time information ranging from a few words ("Traffic Jam" or "Construction Ahead") to a full-blown navigational display showing the location of the vehicle in respect to congestion in the area of Interstate 85 between I-285 and I-20. The display panel may highlight alternate routes to avoid congestion.

Other participants in the Southeast Region Partnership include TRW Transportation and Support Systems (prime developer of the ATMS), the Georgia Department of Transportation (which will provide 100 test cars), Federal Express, Inc. (which will provide 100 test trucks), Georgia Tech Research Institute, Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games, Georgia Institute of Technology, Clark Atlanta University, and Concord Associates.

ORNL, one of the Department of Energy's multiprogram research laboratories, is managed by Lockheed Martin, which also manages the Oak Ridge K-25 Site and the Oak Ridge Y-12 Plant.