The National Academies

NCHRP 17-91 [Active]

Assessing the Impacts of Automated Driving Systems (ADS) on the Future of Transportation Safety

  Project Data
Funds: $764,997
Staff Responsibility: Richard Retting
Research Agency: Booz Allen Hamilton
Principal Investigator: Sudharson Sundararajan
Effective Date: 5/24/2019
Completion Date: 11/23/2021
Comments: Research underway.


Transportation agencies are recognizing that past practices of designing what is considered a safe traveling environment is changing as the vehicle fleet evolves to more connected, autonomous, and automated driving.  While it is understood that impacts are relatively minor today, the implications on the design and operational criteria of tomorrow will be substantial.

Research is needed to understand and plan for these impacts and to consider how they could change the way we plan, design, and operate to address the contributing factors for crashes on our facilities. Federal, state, and local public agencies recognize that there are challenges with maintaining the state of good repair on many assets with existing resources.  Failure to adequately do so may have an impact on roadway safety and operations.  Federal, state, and local public agencies will need to effectively manage resources given the opportunities that ADS brings, while maintaining safety and mobility throughout its adoption.

In the past, design, operational, and other safety criteria were developed in a manner that could now be argued as overcompensation for poor driver behavior.  This occurred as a means to increase safety for the legacy vehicle fleet and occupants because few in-vehicle crash avoidance and restraint systems existed to account for driver errors, risky behaviors, and human factors. Since vehicles are increasingly being designed and operated to account for these factors, how we plan for, develop, and operate transportation facilities also will need to change.

It is anticipated that ADS will address a significant percentage of the human factors contributing to crashes.  Therefore, agencies will be able to prioritize their resources to address the remaining factors that contribute to crashes including those factors not addressed by ADS.  These resources may include engineering, enforcement, education, and emergency response.  In this sense, practical design and operations should incorporate how future changes will benefit safety performance and should consider necessary design criteria modifications to maximize the potential benefits of this technology.

Research is needed to evaluate the impacts of ADS on transportation safety, to include roadway design, operations, planning, and behavioral factors. It is expected this effort will require input from the automotive industry; federal, state and local public agencies; and companies involved in the development of ADS.  The primary focus of this research will be on transportation infrastructure design and operational aspects resulting from the deployment of ADS that will have an impact on safety and investments over time.

The objective of this research is to develop a framework for practitioners (e.g., transportation infrastructure owners, safety agencies, road users, and ADS manufacturers) to use in current and future safety planning, design, operational decisions, and investments on multimodal infrastructure. The framework should include processes and procedures to facilitate the safe, phased integration of ADS under different contexts, and address timeframes, risks, and opportunities for the safe integration of ADS. At a minimum, the research should also address the following topics:
1.      Standards and practices for roadway planning, design, and operations;
2.      Human factors and road user interactions;
3.      Road user behavior;
4.      Impacts of mixed modes, vehicle fleets, and different levels of autonomy;
5.      Impacts on law enforcement and emergency response;
6.      Education (e.g., for operators, police, vehicle dealers); 
7.      Data (e.g., safety data, reporting, key performance indicators needed);
8.      Digital infrastructure (e.g., cybersecurity, mapping, redundancy);
9.      Communication between legacy and ADS vehicles (of various levels) and the infrastructure; and
10.    Legislative and regulatory issues.
The NCHRP is seeking the insights of proposers on how best to achieve the research objective. Proposers are expected to describe research plans that can realistically be accomplished within the constraints of available funds and contract time. Proposals must present the proposers’ current thinking in sufficient detail to demonstrate their understanding of the issues and the soundness of the approach to meeting the research objective.
A kick-off conference call with the research team and NCHRP shall be scheduled within 1 month of the contract’s execution. The work plan must be divided into a minimum of four phases. Each phase must be organized by task, with each task described in detail. 
Phase I - History and Safety Lessons Learned, culminating with the submission of a technical memorandum including, but not limited to:
  •          A summary of relevant research;
  •          ADS deployments currently underway and/or completed;
  •          Status of ADS technology development;
  •          Transportation infrastructure necessary to support ADS;
  •          Potential opportunities for changes in design and operational criteria;
  •          Lessons learned from current deployments including understanding the impacts of the adoption of analogous automation technologies;
  •          Currently available crash and operational safety data needed for analysis and decision making; and
  •          An outline of the framework to be developed in Phase 2. 
Phase II - Framework Development, culminating with the submission of a draft framework to use in current and future safety planning, design, and operational decisions on multimodal infrastructure, including but not limited to:
  •          Processes and procedures to facilitate the safe, phased integration of ADS under different contexts;
  •          Timeframes, risks, and opportunities for the safe integration of ADS; and
  •          Research, analysis, and modeling methods for performance and predictive safety evaluation.

An interim meeting will be held with NCHRP to discuss the results of Phase II and the plan for the Phase III Summit.  Work on Phase III will not begin until the draft framework is approved by NCHRP.


Phase III - ADS and Transportation Safety Summit.  Organize and host a one day invitational ADS and Transportation Safety Summit at the Beckman Center in Irvine, CA, to present the draft framework and solicit feedback from attendees.


Note: The costs for the Summit, including invitational travel for 50 attendees, shall be included in the detailed budget for the research. NCHRP will cover the meeting costs associated with hosting of the Summit at the Beckman Center in Irvine, CA, including meals, as well as the cost of travel for NCHRP panel members.
Phase IV - Proof of Concept. Conduct a pilot study of the revised draft framework to validate the framework. Revise the framework and submit the final framework.
Note: Proposers shall provide insights on how to validate the framework (e.g., simulations, modeling, virtual reality, case studies, or visualizations).
The final deliverables, at a minimum, will include: (1) the framework as described in the objective; (2) a final report documenting the entire project and incorporating all other specified deliverable products of the research; (3) an electronic presentation of the framework that can be tailored for specific audiences and is suitable for training; (4) a short video product to inform practitioners and the public about the framework (NCHRP approval of the video script and storyboard is required before production begins); (5) recommendations for additional research; and (6) a stand-alone technical memorandum titled “Implementation of Research Findings and Products” (see Special Note B for additional information).
Note: Proposers are encouraged to propose other deliverables in addition to those specified.
Note: Following receipt of the draft final deliverables, the remaining 3 months shall be for NCHRP review and comment and for research agency preparation of the final deliverables.
STATUS: Research underway.

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