Modeling vehicle interior noise exposure dose on freeways: Considering weaving segment designs and engine operation

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Vehicle interior noise functions at the dominant frequencies of 500 Hz below and around 800 Hz, which fall into the bands that may impair hearing. Recent studies demonstrated that freeway commuters are chronically exposed to vehicle interior noise, bearing the risk of hearing impairment. The interior noise evaluation process is mostly conducted in a laboratory environment. The test results and the developed noise models may underestimate or ignore the noise effects from dynamic traffic and road conditions and configuration. However, the interior noise is highly associated with vehicle maneuvering. The vehicle maneuvering on a freeway weaving segment is more complex because of its nature of conflicting areas. This research is intended to explore the risk of the interior noise exposure on freeway weaving segments for freeway commuters and to improve the interior noise estimation by constructing a decision tree learning–based noise exposure dose (NED) model, considering weaving segment designs and engine operation. On-road driving tests were conducted on 12 subjects on State Highway 288 in Houston, Texas. On-board Diagnosis (OBD) II, a smartphone-based roughness app, and a digital sound meter were used to collect vehicle maneuvering and engine information, International Roughness Index, and interior noise levels, respectively. Eleven variables were obtainable from the driving tests, including the length and type of a weaving segment, serving as predictors. The importance of the predictors was estimated by their out-of-bag–permuted predictor delta errors. The hazardous exposure level of the interior noise on weaving segments was quantified to hazard quotient, NED, and daily noise exposure level, respectively. Results showed that the risk of hearing impairment on freeway is acceptable; the interior noise level is the most sensitive to the pavement roughness and is subject to freeway configuration and traffic conditions. The constructed NED model shows high predictive power (R = 0.93, normalized root-mean-square error [NRMSE] < 6.7%). Implications: Vehicle interior noise is usually ignored in the public, and its modeling and evaluation are generally conducted in a laboratory environment, regardless of the interior noise effects from dynamic traffic, road conditions, and road configuration. This study quantified the interior exposure dose on freeway weaving segments, which provides freeway commuters with a sense of interior noise exposure risk. In addition, a bagged decision tree–based interior noise exposure dose model was constructed, considering vehicle maneuvering, vehicle engine operational information, pavement roughness, and weaving segment configuration. The constructed model could significantly improve the interior noise estimation for road engineers and vehicle manufactures.