The National Academies

NCHRP 20-24(116) [Final]

Guidance on Roles and Responsibilities in Operation of Automated Vehicles
[ NCHRP 20-24 (Administration of Highway and Transportation Agencies) ]

  Project Data
Comments: Project was cancelled

STATUS: Cancelled


AASHTO has recently reconvened the Connected Vehicle Executive Leadership Team as the Connected and Automated Vehicle Executive Leadership Team (CAV-ELT).  The CAV-ELT met in person for the first time in April, 2016.  Membership includes executives from 20 State and local level DOTs, Executives from major Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs), USDOT representatives, and other supporting agencies and affiliations.  The CAV-ELT will provide policy level direction to the Vehicle to Infrastructure Deployment Coalition (V2I DC) and receive technical input and feedback from the V2I DC. 

The AASHTO CAV-ELT identified high-priority policy issues concerning readiness for the introduction of automated vehicles (AV’s), including connected vehicle (CV) and infrastructure technology and highly-automated vehicles (HAV’s). In September 2016, the National Highway Safety Traffic Administration (NHTSA) released its Federal Automated Vehicles Policy that includes consideration of model state policy and federal regulatory tools applicable to AV’s. This policy provides guidance on federal and state roles with regard to vehicle regulation applicable to HAV’s of all types, suitable for general operation or for specified operational design domains (ODD’s).

It is necessary to develop nationally-applicable operational guidelines for the introduction of automated vehicles (AV), taking into account the evolution of infrastructure planning, design, operation and maintenance for widespread use by AVs of all types. These guidelines should articulate the roles and responsibilities of all levels of government, including federal, state, regional, county and city. The work needs to take into account not only the vehicle level of automation (and its intended operational design domain) but also the broader considerations of use cases conducive to the wide and beneficial deployment of mobility services using HAV’s. Such considerations include the type of mobility service, user experience and operating environment. The need for, and application of, standards for AV-friendly infrastructure should be included (taking into account NCHRP interest in roadway classification for AV’s).

The guidelines should take into account known regulatory and advisory actions by federal government agencies such as NHTSA and the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), as well as state agencies. The focus will be on the introduction of AV, but consideration will be given to the convergence of CV and AV, and the important supporting role of CV.

Agencies at all levels need to be able to prepare for AV’s taking into account not only vehicle definitions but also operational and environmental definitions that relate to their full range of responsibilities, including physical and cyber infrastructure. Roles and responsibilities need to cover operation and maintenance, as well as testing and validation. Operational issues include the ownership of the AV, and the increased classes of ownership and operation.
Operational guidelines for AV’s are needed to underpin a range of additional issues under consideration by the CAV-ELT, including infrastructure planning scenarios, public outreach and education, and data access provisions. The time is right to build on NHTSA’s vehicle-centric AV definitions with a robust set of operational definitions that relate to operational agencies at all levels. AV’s represent an extremely broad class of vehicles and user applications, and AV operational guidelines are urgently needed to bring clarity to, and accelerate, a wide range of AV preparatory and educational efforts.


This project will engage with a wide range of public sector, private sector and research entities in order to develop operational definitions to support the testing, deployment, operation and oversight of AV’s. These definitions, in the form of use cases, will be used to review the AV roles and responsibilities of public agencies at all levels. These roles and responsibilities will be identified and presented by agency type, operational use case, and existing classifications of vehicle automation level and operational design domain.

The results of the project will be shared at AASHTO Spring and Annual meetings, as well as the TRB Annual Meeting and other agency groupings, in order to publicize the work and discuss next steps.  It is anticipated that a broad, separate outreach effort will be needed for professional educational purposes. The project results will be foundational to needed efforts in infrastructure planning scenarios, and in public outreach and education (as prioritized by the CAV-ELT).


Tasks anticipated in this project could include the following:

Task 1. Review of AV and Related Classifications. Carry out a review of vehicle, infrastructure and operational classification schemes relevant to the operation of AV’s. This will include the definitions developed by SAE, NHTSA, and Volpe and research into roadway classifications for AV use by FHWA and others, as well as geographic categories. The on-going efforts of AV testing and deployment consortia, including GoMentum Station (Concord CA), the Michigan Mobility Transformation Center (MTC), RELLIS (Texas A&M), and Virginia Automated Corridors, will be considered.

Task 2. Review of Current Stakeholder Roles & Responsibilities. Carry out a review of current and proposed roles and responsibilities for public agencies, including federal, state, MPO’s and local agencies. Roles and responsibilities include those specific to AV’s as well as existing roles that may expand to AV’s. Public agencies should include vehicle regulations, driver regulations, roadway operation & standards, spectrum allocation, public safety, occupational health & safety, product safety and labor & industry. Federal agencies include NHTSA, FHWA and FCC; state agencies include DOT’s and DMV’s. Regional agencies include MPO’s. Local agencies include cities, counties and metropolitan agencies. Other relevant entities include trade associations, standards organizations, non-profits, precinct operators (such as university campuses and business parks), universities and test consortia. The scope of the review, and resulting responsibility model, will be informed by a set of strawman use case descriptions, to be developed as a prelude to Task 3. The responsibility model will include relevant parties as well as indicative levels of responsibility, such as: lead, partner, or resource, providing consent, concurrence or guidance.

Task 3. Development of AV Use Case Descriptions. Develop a taxonomy of AV use cases, in the form of scenarios characterized by: service type and champion, level of vehicle automation, technological environment, operational design domain, and relevant factors relating to ownership, user experience, operational environment, standards compliance, quality management, data analytics, business model and accreditation. The scope of this taxonomy will depend on the responsibility model developed in Task 2. AV use cases will be formulated and described with the assistance of a NCHRP-style expert panel and a series of accelerated workshops and webinars involving a full range of AV stakeholders.

Task 4. Development of AV Operational Role Guidance. With appropriate outreach, the researchers will apply the AV responsibility model (Task 2) to each of the AV use cases identified in Task 3 in order to identify responsible parties and interested parties, as well as the type of role each needs to play. The nature of each role will be described, with an emphasis on letting agencies know which matters to concentrate on, and issues where others would take the lead.  AV Operational Role Guidance will be designed to assist agencies in priority setting and collaborative strategies, to make the best use of limited resources in preparing for AV deployment. The Guidance will also assist AV manufacturing and service companies in understanding and engaging the most appropriate public sector agencies in order to advance specific products and services, with specific target markets, and in particular locations, or types of locations. The draft Guidance will be evaluated by the expert panel (Task 3) and others in order to arrive at the final product.

Task 5. Report and Outreach. Prepare a draft report summarizing the findings, conclusions, and next step recommendations of all research tasks. Participate in a review process with the expert panel and others, and prepare a final report. Present the study findings at major TRB and AASHTO meetings. It is anticipated that a separate outreach effort will be designed in order to educate the broad professional/technical/practitioner community concerning the study findings. The final report will contain key recommendations for such an effort.

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