The National Academies

BTSCRP BTS-07 [Active]

Assessing the Impacts of Connected, Automated, and Autonomous Vehicles on the Future of Transportation Safety (jointly funded with NCHRP 17-91)

  Project Data
Funds: $765,000
Staff Responsibility: William C. Rogers
Research Agency: Booz Allen Hamilton
Principal Investigator: Ram Kandarpa
Effective Date: 5/24/2019
Completion Date: 11/23/2021
Comments: Research underway as NCHRP 17-91

Transportation agencies are charged with an increasingly complex task of balancing the needs to preserve and maintain assets while introducing new assets into an already overwhelmed transportation system. Gradually, organizations 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 these impacts could change the way we plan, design, and operate our facilities. Transportation agencies are constrained within the existing footprints available to reduce the increasingly burdensome impacts to the environment and right of way, as well as the economic impacts to surrounding businesses. DOTs also recognize that they are unable to maintain the state of good repair on many assets, and failure to do so adequately creates significant safety, mobility, and maintenance risks. DOTs need to understand how best to deal with these challenges to reduce burdens on deteriorating asset conditions (e.g., bridges, pavements, electrical, environmental) while maintaining safety and mobility.

In the past, design and operational criteria were developed in a manner that could be argued by some as “overdesign.” This type of design occurred as a means to increase safety for the vehicle and traveler because few systems existed within vehicle fleet to account for driver errors, risky behavior, and human factors.

Since vehicles are increasingly being designed and operated to account for these factors, how we plan for, develop, and operate facilities also will need to change. With this in mind, preparing for a new design framework is critical and needs consideration. The new design framework will allow for targeting resources to those infrastructure aspects that are least impacted by the connected, autonomous, and automated driving systems. 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.

It is important to consider these vehicle fleet changes that can be used to prioritize investment decisions in the future. This research will evaluate potential vehicle system modifications and potential focus areas in design and operational criteria.

The objective of this research is to review and document existing and anticipated future changes to the vehicle fleet. With this information, develop an outline of how these changes will likely affect safety performance over time and what potential changes to design and operational criteria could be developed to maximize the potential benefits. The research will then be used to develop a framework and strategic approach for the safety profession to consider in developing and implementing new design criteria and operational approaches that consider these technological advances.

Potential tasks:
  • Evaluate existing literature on connected, autonomous, and automated vehicles to determine the particular crash types and contributing factors that will most likely be impacted by this new technology.
  • Evaluate current highway design, traffic control, and operational criteria most often associated with the crash type and contributing factors identified in the literature review to determine potential design and operational focus areas.
  • Develop a list of priority areas to be addressed that would provide the maximum benefits to transportation agencies.
  • Develop methods to assess the risks and opportunities to changes in design criteria
  • Develop a framework and strategic plan to incorporate vehicle fleet changes into modification of design and operational criteria including:
    • Planning activities necessary to implement the change;
    • Methods and manuals that would need to be modified to enable the change;
    • Potential timing of the fleet, design and operational changes; and
    • An outline of risk and opportunities related to the changes.
The AASHTO Standing Committee on Highway Traffic Safety (Committee on Safety) rated this its top research problem statement out of four being submitted for consideration. This research will support the SCOHTS Strategic Plan goals related to strategic highway safety planning to help reach a goal of zero traffic fatalities and to promote and support data-driven safety performance analysis and planning.

 Research underway.

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