Research in progress
Automation of the freight transportation sector is evolving rapidly, and the developments are posing challenges and opportunities for state and local agencies. For instance, much of the impetus toward trucking automation is coming from the private sector, including technology companies as well as trucking firms. Their expectations are that the public sector will maintain or build infrastructure, and enact regulatory changes that enable any new technology to enter the market. Before this can happen, significant government action will be required to create the operational, infrastructure, and regulatory environment conducive to known automation technology, with the flexibility to incorporate unforeseen technologies.
There are several near-term freight system automation developments. The relative ease of automating limited-access urban highway is encouraging new operational concepts where distribution centers and warehouses are located adjacent to highway access points in anticipation of scenarios where drivers deliver trucks to an access point, followed by an automated line haul run to access points where drivers once again take over. There is widespread experimentation in first- and last-mile automated freight delivery, and already local governments are struggling to keep up with legal, regulatory, safety, and land use issues. Multimodal environments, including rail terminals, inland ports, sea ports, and airports present different operating environments for the introduction of the same types of automation technologies.
Research is needed to enable state and local agencies to determine questions that must be addressed and decisions that are required regarding automated freight transportation movement technologies, and to identify the information and data required to guide those decisions.
The objective of this research is to develop a decision framework for state and local agencies to (1) identify, evaluate, and address the potential impacts (both positive and negative) of connected and automated freight transportation movement technologies on policies and practices; and (2) identify ways in which state and local agencies can enable automated freight transportation technologies. The decision framework should be simple, scalable, and sustainable. At a minimum, the research should also address the following topics:
Decisions and questions that state and local agencies have about automated freight transportation movement technologies, and the information and data required to guide those decisions;
Description of the applicable freight supply chains and modes and description of the technologies included in the framework;
Challenges and opportunities for state and local agencies;
Public sector planning and programming implications; and
Impacts on all modes of freight transportation in urban, suburban, and rural settings.