Project Name

A Connected Vehicle-Enabled Virtual Dynamic Message Sign System Demonstration and Evaluation on the Virginia Connected Vehicle Testbed

Research Team

Brian L. Smith, PE

Hyungjun Park

David Recht


Connected Vehicles/Infrastructure University Transportation Center: Connected Vehicles/Infrastructure University Transportation Center

Project Dates

November 2014 - January 2016

Project Description

Dynamic Message Signs (DMSs) are widely used to deliver traveler information and have proven to be very effective for Departments of Transportation (DOTs). However, key limitations exist: 1) existing DMSs are limited in managing dynamic situations given that DMSs are only available at relatively sparsely spaced fixed locations, 2) reading DMS messages is distracting to drivers, and 3) installation and maintenance of DMSs is expensive. To address these limitations, a  smartphone-based virtual DMS application was developed in the first round of CVI-UTC projects. This application uses smartphones to provide audible “reading” of the current DMS messages to drivers when they enter a geographic zone in the proximity of the fixed sign. In addition, the project used extensive driving simulator testing to prove that virtual DMSs are less distracting and more informative than traditional physical DMSs.  Building upon this completed work, the University of Virginia Center for Transportation Studies (UVA CTS) team proposes to develop a more advanced, second generation of the Virtual Dynamic Message Sign (VDMS) system that is fully integrated in the DSRC environment of the Virginia Connected Vehicle Testbed, suitable for demonstration and evaluation.

Goal and Objectives

The goal of this project is to develop, demonstrate, and evaluate a Virtual Dynamic Message Sign (VDMS) system on the Virginia Connected Vehicle Testbed. Key objectives are as follows:

  • To develop a comprehensive VDMS system consisting of the VDMS manager software applicatoin and the applications for OBE/DAS, RSE, and the VTTI server;
  • To demonstrate the developed VDMS system in the connected vehicles testbed in Nothern Virginia; and
  • To examine the feasibility of a VDMS system to support VDOT’s advanced traffic management needs.


Task 1. Literature Review

Task 1 will be conducted to gather necessary information to build an enhaced VDMS system.

Task 2. Concept Development

In this task, the research team will develop a detailed concept for the proposed VDMS system. The proposed VDMS system consists of one main software application (i.e. a virtual dynamic message sign manager that will be developed by UVA CTS) and three sub-applications (i.e. VTTI server application, RSE application, and OBE/DAS application that will be developed by VTTI CTD).

Task 3. System Development

In Task 3, one main software application (VDMS manager) and three sub-applications (VTTI server application, RSE application, and OBE/DAS application) will be developed.

Task 4. System Testing

Once the applications are ready, the VDMS manager program will be installed on a laptop computer and three sub-applications will be installed in the corresponding equipment, i.e. the VTTI server, RSEs, and OBEs. Testing will then be performed to ensure the proper operations of each of these applications.

In addition, integration testing will be also carried out to make sure the whole VDMS system performs as intended. For this, the UVA CTS team will drive along the Northen Virginia testbed corridors with a laptop computer with the VDMS manager program installed, to confirm that the messages are properly delivered from the laptop computer to the OBE/DAS.

Task 5. System Demonstration and Evaluation

In Task 5, the complete VDMS system will be 1) demonstrated at the CVI-UTC testbed in Northern Virginia using a subset of the seven “integrated” light vehicles equipped with an OBE and a DAS, and 2) evaluated as a tool to support TOC operators in managing traffic. For this, UVA CTS will first create several scenarios considering various types of information to be presented, i.e. work zone safety/management related, incident response and management, and routing advisories (particularly focusing on parallel routes within testbed). Once senarios are created, a set of virtual messages will then be prepared accordingly. As stated above, the task will then address two key subtasks, field demonstration and system evaluation.

The first subtask will focus on field demonstration of the VDMS system. UVA CTS will invite several participants from transportation agencies including VDOT and USDOT. A researcher from UVA CTS and a participant will ride together in an integrated vehicle with OBE/DAS as well as with a laptop computer with the VDMS manager program installed. This way, the participants will have a chance to actually input virtual messages while driving on the testbed corridor, and to listen to an audible message of the text message that he/she just created.

The second subtask will be conducted to evaluate the VDMS system as a tool to support TOC’s efforts to manage traffic. In this subtask, a UVA CTS researcher and a TOC operator will be located at the TOC with the VDMS manager software application on a laptop computer and another researcher will drive an integrated vehicle in the Northern Virginia testbed. A TOC operator will then use the VDMS manager program to create virtual DMSs and its’ messages to manage traffics for an imaginary situation. The goal of this evaulation is to gain feedback from TOC operators on the usuability, and the effectiveness of the VDMS system as an information dissemination tool to support advanced traffic management.

Additionally, one of the optional tasks being considered is to recruite naïve drivers to investigate drivers’ response to the VDMS system. In particular, this behavioral study would be able to collect the data necessary to measure drivers’ distraction level for text vs. audio messages, degree of message comprehension, compliance rates to the messages, drivers’ response time, and so on. While this topic is of significance, the short project period and the avalilable budget may not allow this task. Given this concern, if there are other selected projects with a plan for recruiting naïve drivers, UVA CTS will coordinate with these project teams to incorporate VDMS evaluation with the set of drivers.

Task 6. Final Report

A final report synthesizing all the intermediate deliverables and final results will be prepared and submitted.

Initial Results

A video clip from the below link is a six-minute tutorial of the VDMS manager program and shows how this system works.


virtual dynamic message sign

DC Line


Poster – Green – VDMS Cost – 2015 UTC Spotlight Poster 10262015.pdf
Poster presented at the 9th University Transportation Center Spotlight Conference: Automated and Connected Vehicle. Organized by Transportation Research Board and Sponsored by U.S. Department of Transportation. Washington, D.C. November 2015

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