Urban environment and road layout affect the behaviour of motorists. Wider lanes and a wider peripheral field of vision make the average motorist feel safer, and more inclined to press on the accelerator, increasing the risk of accidents and injuries. And that’s not all! When drivers decide to increase their speed, they increase their fuel consumption at the same time, producing more pollutants and greenhouse gases, as well as higher engine noise levels. So how can roads be designed to encourage drivers to adopt a less aggressive and, therefore, a safer and more environmentally friendly driving style?
Luc Pellecuer, Professor in the Department of Construction Engineering since July 2016, wants to integrate the sustainable development perspective into urban road design, better aligning them with today’s vision of society. To do this, he uses the GPS Big Data provided by devices now installed in more and more vehicles.
From industrial engineering to construction engineering
Luc Pellecuer holds a degree in industrial engineering from France. He spent his last year in the ÉTS Construction Engineering Department, where he obtained his Master’s degree. His project focused on the design of roundabouts, relatively new infrastructures in Québec. He then returned for a brief stay in Europe (France and Germany) and, after gaining some work experience, decided to return to ÉTS to pursue a Ph.D. and develop his research skills.
He then realized that he was passionate about teaching and that research was the perfect way to lead society to make more responsible choices. His thesis project focused on quantifying the environmental cost related to road maintenance management, a factor not taken into account by the Ministry of Transport. Current calculations take into account the costs of labour, materials and even “user costs”, namely the fact that poorly maintained roads lead to additional repair and fuel costs.
However, additional emissions caused by non-optimal interaction between the vehicles and poorly maintained roads are not accounted for in these calculations. The results of his research are conclusive: road maintenance costs are about ten times less than their environmental benefits. Neglected roads therefore have a phenomenal impact on emissions and these in turn have an impact on our society.
Using Big Data to study the influence of road design on drivers
Luc Pellecuer is currently conducting a research project in continuity with his postdoctoral studies at the Institute for Transport Studies (ITS), in the United Kingdom. There, he developed tools to analyze the GPS Big Data provided in particular by “Pay How You Drive” insurance programs. He is conducting this project in collaboration with the University of Leeds, specifically to identify the variables influencing driver behaviour in order to provide better predictive and control tools on automobile pollution.
Far from limiting himself to road traffic, he is also studying the social, cultural and environmental decisive factors of street user behaviours. For example, for short trips, what are the factors that make people choose to walk instead of taking their car? And especially, can their choice be influenced by making the streets more welcoming for pedestrians? He is also working on identifying different factors in street design and layouts that contribute to the mental and physical health of residents and users. How to reduce road noise. How to limit automobile pollution. How to reduce the visual footprint of roadways. His research has much in common with other disciplines, opening up the possibility of cross-discipline collaboration. He sees this as an opportunity to “protect the public,” which is the responsibility of every engineer.
Students interested in this area of research can contact Professor Luc Pellecuer.