The National Academies

NCHRP 20-24(126) [Final]

National Automation Readiness Framework: Coast-to-Coast Automated Mobility
[ NCHRP 20-24 (Administration of Highway and Transportation Agencies) ]

  Project Data
Comments: Project was cancelled

STATUS: Project was cancelled

Motor-vehicle automation offers unprecedented potential to transform our transportation system. Rapidly improving technologies could soon offer solutions to some of the biggest challenges in transportation, leading to dramatic improvements in safety and mobility operations. The goal of this proposal is to prepare for this new era of transportation by engaging with these new automation technologies to ensure safety and national interoperability without hampering innovation. To achieve this goal, the traditional DOT approach to mobility operations will be modernized to respond to these rapidly evolving technologies, without prejudging these technologies and their capabilities, by developing a readiness framework that defines goals, objectives, and priorities for mobility automation.
The proposed framework will play an important role in informing a state and national approach to automation as well as in creating documentation to serve as a foundation for future activities and providing a holistic approach to automation, helping to avoid siloed activities. Encouraging innovation throughout these efforts will ensure that state and national transportation systems remain competitive in automation technology.
Several complimentary, high-profile stakeholder engagements have already been undertaken to inform the development of an automated vehicle (AV) framework more generally:
  • In December 2017, USDOT hosted the Roundtable on Data for Automated Vehicle Safety as part of an effort to accelerate the safe integration of AVs by facilitating the mutually beneficial exchange of data between private sector entities, infrastructure operators, and policy-makers. The roundtable convened over 60 participants from Federal, State, and local governments businesses, nonprofit organizations, universities, and research centers to provide feedback on the Department’s Guiding Principles on Voluntary Data Exchanges to Accelerate the Safe Deployment of Automated Vehicles and the Framework for Voluntary Data Exchanges to Accelerate the Safe Deployment of Automated Vehicles. Participants also identified near-term priorities for voluntary data exchanges that will support AV deployment. 
  •  In March 2018, USDOT brought together hundred transportation stakeholders at a Public Listening Summit on Automated Vehicle Policy, including experts in industry, government, labor, and advocacy, as well as members of the public, to provide feedback on the Department’s role in safely integrating AVs into the Nation’s transportation system. This summit reinforced the Department’s commitment to a multi-modal, unified approach to AVs. Also in early 2018, several operating administrations released requests for comments or requests for information to solicit information on the potential impacts of automation. The intent of these requests has been to identify unnecessary institutional, policy, and regulatory or statutory barriers to automation; identify opportunities and challenges for AV demonstrations and integration; and inform future research needs.  
  • Perhaps most notably, USDOT launched the National Dialogue on Highway Automation in Detroit on June 7, 2018. The Dialogue stands as a significant opportunity to engage the public and broader stakeholder community to understand key areas of interest and prepare DOT programs and policies to incorporate automation considerations. The dialogue consists of a series of meetings that engage both traditional and non-traditional stakeholders to ensure broad input into DOT’s research, policy, and implementation assistance. In addition to soliciting feedback, these meetings will aid in the development of a national transportation community for automation - One of the many milestones required to prepare local, state and national infrastructure for automated mobility alongside rapid advancements in the vehicle technology sector.
For infrastructure owners and operators, it is important to understand the complexity of issues that will be faced, and the tasks that will need to be performed in order to accommodate autonomous mobility on the roadway. For example, connected vehicles will require roadside infrastructure and communications to supporting systems, and therefore the DOTs that own and operate the infrastructure will need to play a large role in these developments and deployments. Given that autonomous vehicles will benefit from communications with roadside infrastructure, there is considerable interaction with roadway operators and autonomous vehicle advances. As a result, the proposed framework will be integrated and complimentary to the current Connected Road Classification System (CRCS) concept development project under NCHRP at CDOT which will define a road classification system with 6 levels of roadway readiness to support a fully autonomous future.
At this time, there is a unique window of opportunity where many infrastructure owners and operators have yet to invest significant resources to support the autonomous future. This time period is limited as infrastructure owners and operators will need to very soon begin to prepare for the rollout that will occur in the coming years. A risk is that individual states may begin a piecemeal approach to developing their roadways for autonomous mobility, resulting in a situation that multiplies the effort required for vehicles to match their level of automation to various scenarios defined by different DOTs. Research is needed to support development of a National Highway Automation Readiness Framework that will guide the nation’s infrastructure owners and operators toward a common, shared vision, goals, and objectives.

The objective of this project is to provide the bases for development of a national highway automation readiness framework designed specifically for greater accessibility, safety, affordability, efficiency, and connectivity and that will serve as the model for the country. The project will engage a core set of stakeholders comprised of both public sector roadway owners and operators and advanced industry representatives in automation, while refining the concept as appropriate based on the input received and then presenting the concept to additional DOTs through various outreach mechanisms with the ultimate goal of reaching consensus and formally proposing the national concept to USDOT. Research results may be discussed at AASHTO and TRB meetings and possibly other venues to refine the concepts.  
The research will be conducted in a cross-functional, iterative way that is implementation-focused and designed to build on successes within a nimble planning process. The contractor will work with a core team of state DOT personnel and 1 or 2 MPO partners on (a) development of a state-level highway automation readiness framework and (b) mobilizing state DOTs as innovative laboratories apply the framework and mobilize other research efforts to further develop the national framework through state-led initiatives. The current project may include the following interim products or milestones and research initiatives:
  • Synthesis of Autonomous Vehicle Deployments and Infrastructure Considerations. Complete a synthesis of autonomous vehicle deployments and infrastructure considerations being executed in the various AV pilots, including those associated with USDOT. Incorporate a review of preliminary insights and collaborative national action opportunities raised during the initial stage of the National Dialogue on Highway Automation. The intent of this synthesis will be to gauge the level of advancement such early deployments have made at informing roadway development, and to learn lessons from the partners’ experiences as they define appropriate infrastructure specifications. This synthesis should be made available as an early product of the research.
  • Literature Research. Research initiatives (both existing and in development) that have included aspects of infrastructure readiness for autonomous vehicle deployments. For example, Nevada has identified six different “geographic categories” (i.e. Interstate highways, State highways, urban environments, complex urban environments, residential roads, and unpaved or unmarked roads) and five “environmental types” (i.e. night driving, rain, fog, snow/ice, and high crosswinds) in their definitions. In addition to this research, activities in Task 2 may outreach and possibly survey state DOTs to understand any discussions or actions taken to begin to develop roadways for autonomous vehicle use. In addition to US experiences, investigate global experiences and international models for safely and sustainably accommodating cooperative automated transportation technologies and strategies across a highway and roadway network at the national scale. This literature review should be made available as an early product of the research.
  • National Highway Automation Readiness Definitional Web Meeting. Convene the project panel and additional invited representatives to identify fundamental principles and tentative definitions of highway and roadway network readiness or preparedness for connected automated vehicles and cooperative automated transportation strategies. Review outcomes of the synthesis and literature review as well as global models for national and international regional coordination to identify potential characterizations of highway automation readiness criteria and conceptual alternative organizational models for sustaining national scale collaboration in deployment and operations.
  • Assessment of options for a National Highway Automation Readiness Framework. Near-term activities may be focused on providing a network of high volume roads custom designed to support and advance automated driving systems over the next 5 years. Focus areas may include the following:
  • Infrastructure for navigation and maneuverability, taking into account striping and signing standards, smart work zones, data communications on planned and unplanned lane closures, and vehicle to everything (V2X) technology deployment
  • Operations strategies to maximize highly automated vehicle (HAV) capabilities and benefits, taking into account connected traffic signals, variable speed limits / speed harmonization, platooning, winter weather operations, intersections, and roundabouts
  • Seamless connections to local destination centers with consistent standards for HAVs, providing consistent infrastructure standards for repeatable routes, linking freeways, arterials, local roads, and drop off locations
  • Institutional dimensions of highway automation readiness potentially including policy and legislative needs and concepts, inter-organizational structures and partnerships, government-university-industry collaboration and innovation strategies, and national business case and benefits assessment of cooperative automated transportation technologies.

Longer term transportation network considerations may include high traffic corridors, high density destination centers, interstate highways, and unique safety, mobility, and freight issues more broadly.  Consideration will be given to the future prospects of fully autonomous roadway networks, providing a closed network of roads exclusively for fully autonomous vehicles, connecting freeways to major destination centers. Primary elements could include the following:
  • Electrification, e.g., reducing range anxiety for viable ride-share mobility services
  • Mobility on Demand, providing strategies and policies to enable seamless and instant mobility services across modes that maximize HAV usage
  • Managed lanes, e.g., tolled express lanes and other lanes dedicated for HAVs to maximize their benefits to the system
  • High volume corridors, high density destination centers, and interstate connections
  • Long range system expansion and enhancement focused on supporting infrastructure, dedicated lanes, and other system innovations.
  • Workshop. Organize, facilitate, and document a workshop/technical forum that would bring together executives from State and local DOTs, USDOT representation from FHWA and
    NHTSA, private industry representatives of the major automobile manufacturers, as well as academia researchers. The goal of the workshop would be to have a critical mass of key representatives from within the industry to discuss the National Highway Automation Readiness Framework concept and an initial proposed deployment by Colorado DOT or another agency in order to vet and debate the concept and reach consensus on a proposed approach. The workshop will also discuss and explore potential institutional and resource models to accelerate and sustain a National Highway Automation Readiness Framework.  
This task will include a presentation of the project findings at an AASHTO Meeting. In addition, a brief concept paper and presentation updating progress could be prepared for a TRB-sponsored meeting.

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